by Alice Levitt
201 Cornerstone Drive, Taft Farm Shopping Center, Williston, 878-5556
Decent New York-style pizza is hard to come by in the Green Mountains. When I find a new place to get it, it's time to celebrate.
Hooray, then, for the thin, cheesy slices at Vermont Pizza Company.
The address might be familiar. Until earlier this fall, the spot was known as Rocky's New York Pizza. John Howe, who has owned that place for a year and a half, was looking to carve out his own niche, hence the name change, major remodeling and new menu. The new, more open floor plan is decorated with close-up photographs of Vermont produce. I sat beneath a print of a bouquet of turnips.
Better-quality (if not local) ingredients and freshly tossed crusts are part of the deal, too. I couldn't judge if the chew was just right on a fresh pie — I only tried reheated slices. But I think the dough has promise. The sauce was suitably tangy and flecked with basil and oregano. Cheese was stretchy, salty and just oily enough. I liked the smokiness of the thick-cut-bacon-and-pepperoni slice I tried, but was particularly impressed with the garlic-spinach-tomato one. The fresh ingredients really stood out, with the fruity acid of the tomato and zingy garlic adding particular élan.
Of the new pasta dishes, our very friendly, very enthusiastic counter server recommended either the gnocchi with creamy pesto sauce or the spinach linguine. We chose the former.
The funny, little potato dumplings looked and felt homemade, but the server admitted that Vermont Pizza Company purchases them ready made. They're heavier than one might find at, say, Trattoria Delia, but still light, rustic and much nicer in taste and texture than the ready-made gnocchi I grew up eating.
It was a shame, then, about the sauce. The basil, pine nuts and garlic all clotted right in the middle of the bowl. The rest of the pasta sat in a green puddle of oil. The cream in the description was missing, as was anything more than a light wash of flavor. Still, at $7.79, it was a great deal for a gnocchi meal that also included a big plate of buttered, toasted bread. Next time, I'll probably go for the marinara sauce or simple garlic and olive oil.
The best was yet to come: The simple pleasure of balls of pizza dough covered in cinnamon sugar. Cinnamon Puffs are a sweet take on Vermont Pizza Company's popular Garlic Puffs.
Hot out of the oven, the surprisingly fluffy, but chewy balls were so comfortingly delicious, we couldn't help but finish them all. At $2.59, they cost the same as a cookie at many pizzerias, but were made to order and eminently sharable. But maybe I don't want to share. That's why I'm planning on returning soon for a Cinnamon Puff Sundae. And you can't have any.
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.