203 North Winooski Avenue, Burlington, 863-8278
Panadero Bakery is known for its tarts by day, but since August, it has been moonlighting as a pizza joint.
Perhaps joint isn't the right word. With low lighting and white Christmas lights dotting the space like stars, a near-magical hush overtakes the bakery on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
I was there last Friday, a little after 8 p.m., and all six tables were full. However, I was seated after a less-than-10-minute wait.
Each week, the bakery features a market salad composed of all the freshest farmers market delights. And I mean it when I say delights. The salad was almost certainly the most delicious I've ever eaten in Burlington.
On top of a forest-like bed of curly endive, thick, crisp bacon and crunchy pecans rested juicy slices of pear. To the side sat a creamy slice of Boucher Family Farm Gore-Dawn-Zola ready to be broken up into bite-sized chunks.
With a light and tangy honey vinaigrette, the salad was much more than the sum of its parts. I wish I could get it again, but perhaps part of the romance was knowing that it was the only time I'd be able to enjoy the gorgeous dish.
Before long, our two pizzas emerged from the oven.
The Green Mountain resembled just that, with a hill of arugula covering the oblong pie. Beneath, Gorgonzola, ricotta and mozzarella made for a lusciously gooey cheese blob mitigated by tangy apple slices. A squeeze of honey added sweetness to the pizza, but also made it so sticky that it was difficult to handle.
The greatest disappointment for me, though, was the crust. Thick and bready, it was more like a French bread base than the chewy, stretchy crusts I prefer.
Despite that minor kink, I would be happy to dig into a Margherita anytime. At only $10.50, it was enough to feed two — that's half what I'd spend for two at my favorite downtown pizzeria.
In some spots, the tangy San Marzano tomato sauce, dotted with chunks of garlic, was strangely watery. But when a slice got full coverage — badabing! The combination of fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and that sauce scratched my pizza itch perfectly.
So perfectly, in fact, I wasn't even interested in dessert, despite the fact that I was in a bakery.
And really, few desserts could have topped the sweet and lovely salad. Too bad I didn't end my meal with it, European style.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.