I've worked in Burlington for just over two years, so there are still scores of restaurants I've never visited. I ate at The Daily Planet for the first time (ever!) this spring and have yet to hit the Inn at Shelburne Farms and so many other iconic places.
Not quite iconic, but seemingly beloved, is Buono Appetito, a nondescript — at least from the outside — place on Route 7 in Shelburne that people have urged me to visit for months — especially since chef Sevie Cartularo took over the kitchen of his family's restaurant.
I dropped in for the first time on a wintry night last week, and the place seemed to have a split personality: In the back a guitarist strummed to a bar full of drinkers. Up front were some quiet, old-school dining rooms. At first glance, the menu looked well stocked with standard-bearers such as pizza and eggplant Parmigiana. In their midst, however, were tantalizing things such as squid-ink spaghetti and an entire section of funky small plates. With the wind whipping around outside, I mainlined some crispy, garlicky brussels sprouts tarted up with capers and lemon — I later learned it was a favorite of food writer/editor Melissa Pasanen, who wrote up the dish for Vermont Life — and some floppy pappardelle smothered in spicy sausage and a silky tomato sauce smoothed with a splash of milk.
As a server cleared my plate, I reached for the last bits of browned garlic. "We can't ever take those brussels sprouts off the menu," she said, but added she was addicted to a dish off of the new spring menu: crispy artichoke hearts with pickled onions.
Damn. I was too full to eat more, but even after I left I couldn't shake the thought from my mind. So I returned.
The bar was quieter on a spring-like evening this week; at one table, a toddler fiddled with crayons while the parents checked out the menu. When the dish I had returned for arrived at my table, slanting sunlight illuminated the plate. The crispy artichoke hearts looked like ethereal, shredded flower petals, laced with lip-smacking pickled onions and kissed by a deep fryer. It was all gone in a flash, and only cost me $6.
I followed those up with some creamy chicken liver paté slathered on crusty Red Hen bread, with hints of caramel-ly Crown Royal punching up the flavor. Even with so many restaurants left to try, I think I may have to visit Buono Appetito a third time.