22 Main Street, Winooski, 802-655-7888
There's Vermont pizza, then there's New York pizza. For those of us from the New York area, this difference is life and death. The puffy crusts and too-sweet sauces of most Vermont pizzerias might taste just fine, but to us, they're not really pizza. Give me a thin, foldable crust and tangy sauce. The options for such pies are limited in the Burlington area. Junior's Italian in Colchester and Mimmo's Pizzeria in Essex are reliable choices, but when other former tri-state denizens ask for my recommendation, I always send them to Winooski to try Donny's NY Pizza & Sports Bar.
This comes as a surprise to many. The little pizza shop at the bottom of Winooski's Main Street is easy to miss, unless you travel West Canal Street and see that the restaurant covers an entire block, with plenty of seating and a full bar with TVs. Sometimes crowds gather to take in some football. Usually, the folks behind the counter are doing what they do best — making pizzas, rolls and calzones.
Owned by the Michaelides family, Donny's also delivers its fair share of Greek flavors. I already knew that they made some of the best pizza around, so on my last visit, I decided to test the Mediterranean dishes on offer.
I started with the garden salad with falafel. This was no pizzeria salad. As evidenced by the photo, everything on the plate was Technicolor bright. Lush, leafy lettuce, green peppers and cucumbers tasted every bit as beautiful as they looked. Only the tomatoes were more attractive to the eye than the palate.
The falafel was better than expected, too. Though I won't be skipping trips to Ahli Baba's Kabob Shop in favor of these, the crispy, baked balls were richly spiced, if a little dry. A wide range of dressings were available on the side, but my light Italian tasted wan and out of a bottle. Next time I'll go for olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
To my mind, Donny's greatest treasure is its Sicilian pizza. The crust is crisp and chewy.The sauce is full of oregano and big tomato flavor. It brings me back vividly to the slices I'd grab from my local pizza place on my way home from nursery school. Best of all, I've found that it's even better the next day. My usual toppings of choice are chicken and spinach. However, Donny's has an interesting array of specialty pies, including chicken fajita and breakfast pizzas. Saturday night, it was finally time to try the chicken souvlaki pizza.
Though brushed with oil instead of my beloved red sauce, this pie captured all the wonders of a Donny's Sicilian pizza, plus a pretty darn good souvlaki dinner.
Homemade tzatziki sauce, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, cooked onions and freshly prepared marinated chicken were carefully distributed across the fat crust.
The chicken was lemony and herbaceous — above and beyond what's necessary for dressing a pizza. The tzatziki was also pleasantly tangy, but there was more of it than I might have liked. A good half wound up scraped onto my plate. I've always been fearful of salad pizzas, and I did find the hot-cold contrast jarring at first. Once the sauce and fresh veggies warmed up a bit, the pizza was a pleasure that I would be happy to experience again. See you soon, Donny's.