13 Burlington Pizza Reviews: The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected | Food + Drink Features | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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13 Burlington Pizza Reviews: The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected

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Manhattan Pizza & Pub - BRYAN PARMELEE ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Bryan Parmelee ©️ Seven Days
  • Manhattan Pizza & Pub

The very first issue of Seven Days — published on September 6, 1995 — included a story about pizza. "The Pies Have It" rated nine pizza places that delivered in Burlington, noting details such as the staff's telephone manners — a prime concern in those days before online ordering.

We've written about pizza a few times since then — after all, it's the original takeout food, and Vermonters eat a lot of it. But 26 years have passed since the last comprehensive Burlington pizza story, and we figured it was time for an update.

For our survey of the current BTV pizza scene, we drew reviewers from across the Seven Days staff. Within city limits, we found 13 non-chain restaurants that focus on pizza. A few are familiar faces from 1995: Leonardo's Pizza, Mr. Mike's and Manhattan Pizza & Pub.

The world of cheese-and-sauce-on-bread has changed in a quarter century, though. Pizza isn't just pizza these days — it can be Neapolitan-style, Detroit-style, flatbread, square, round, vegan or gluten-free.

What follow are individual perspectives on Burlington's 13 pizza spots — from staples at old favorites to unexpected new orders — complete with quirky superlatives.

— Jordan Barry

Most Polarizing

Pizzeria Ida, 622 Riverside Ave., 540-0191, instagram.com/idapizzapies
Spinach and sesame - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Spinach and sesame

With a $34 base pie, Pizzeria Ida is Burlington's most expensive pizza. If you weighed one of its hefty pizzas, the cost per ounce would probably compare favorably with that of some of the city's other high-end offerings. Either way, I'd argue that Ida's naturally leavened crusts and skillfully layered, best-quality toppings are worth the price.

Some online reviewers disagree. They cite crusts closer to charred than properly blistered and mercurial customer service. Scraggly bearded pizzaiolo/co-owner Dan Pizzutillo regularly posts Instagram soliloquies as full of swagger as his dough is full of ideal gluten development. "The owner is an ass," one Yelper wrote — and he's a fan of the place.

The BYOB restaurant reopened in July for on-site eating with a few outdoor tables. Daily menus are posted only on Instagram, and takeout orders are placed by phone.

I favor Ida's Sicilian-style square pies made with a dough that rises overnight and bakes up thick, airy and chewy. When squares were sold out on a recent night, I settled for a spinach-and-sesame round. It turns out the round pies have transformed during the pandemic in style, size and price.

The pizza spilled out of its 18-inch box with a tangy, chewy crust that cradled fior di latte mozzarella, caramelized fennel, spinach and garlic cream. My new problem: round or square?

— Melissa Pasanen

Most Customizable

Leonardo's Pizza, 83 Pearl St., 862-7700, leonardosonline.com
Green peppers and extra pineapple - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Green peppers and extra pineapple

I've been ordering Leonardo's delivery for 15 years: from my University of Vermont dorm room, from the couch when I was too hungover to move and, frequently, during the pandemic. Leonardo's always has coupons, and the staff executes my weird order perfectly: green peppers and extra pineapple.

A Leonardo's pie is infinitely customizable: five sauces, three crusts (including gluten-free) of various thicknesses, 24 toppings and seven cheeses (including vegan). The place has something for everyone at almost any time of day. (It's open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.)

Until last week, I'd never been to Leonardo's to pick up the pizza. An hour after placing an order through the Leonardo's app, I arrived at the original Pearl Street location, where the biz has been since 1990. (The other location, in South Burlington, delivers to some Burlington customers.) It's a call-when-you-get-there curbside system. My medium pie ($16.60, since I'd forgotten to use any coupons) was still in the oven, but watching the sunset over the lake kept me occupied.

When the pizza was ready, I grabbed a slice for immediate gratification, then buckled the box into the passenger seat. Leonardo's pies are cut into small slices that make it easy to say, "Oh, just one more." If you can save any, the pizza is very reheatable and makes a great breakfast.

— Jordan Barry

Best Gluten-Free Crust

American Flatbread Burlington Hearth, 115 St. Paul St., 861-2999, americanflatbread.com
Eggs Benedict flatbread - EMILY HAMILTON ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Emily Hamilton ©️ Seven Days
  • Eggs Benedict flatbread

As a gluten-intolerant pizza lover, I have tried a lot of gluten-free options of wildly varying quality. So I do not put this lightly: American Flatbread serves the best gluten-free pizza I've ever had. Many bake up so hard that I worry for my teeth. By contrast, Flatbread's bubbles up chewy and crisp and tastes like herbs and wood fire.

For the sake of a well-rounded evaluation, I brought my fiancée, who eats gluten but not dairy, and her dad, who eats both. I got the Eggs Benedict flatbread ($26), which is only available on weekend afternoons and is obscenely delicious. It stars jammy eggs, tangy hollandaise and smoked pork loin. My beloved gluten-free crust — made by West Meadow Farm Bakery — costs an additional $5.50, a small price to pay.

My fiancée ordered a daily special, the bánh mì pie ($19) topped with an Asian-accented bean spread and a carrot slaw. She wished for more Vietnamese flavor but reported that her dairy-free cheese ($2 extra) was delightfully melty, without the off flavor that many have. Her dad got a half Revolution and half New Vermont Sausage pie ($15) and loved the decisively fennel-flavored sausage. When they compared my crust with theirs, they judged the flavor on par, though the regular one was thicker with a more satisfying chew. I promise, however, that all who are gluten-averse will be fully satisfied.

— Emily Hamilton

Most 'This Is Indeed Pizza' Pizza

Mr. Mike's, 206 Main St., 864-0072, mrmikespizzavt.com
Cheese - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Cheese

Cheap and greasy. Two words you may or may not love having associated with your pizza. At $3 for a cheese slice, Mr. Mike's isn't going to put a dent in your wallet. Your colon? Debatable.

Look, if this is a pizza beauty contest, Mr. Mike's isn't taking any awards. As flat and uninteresting as a town in the middle of Indiana, this is food that serves to do one thing: soak up the booze.

Taste-wise, Mr. Mike's is just a member of the pack of food spots serving the bar crowd. The dough is fine. The cheese is fine. The toppings are, y'know, fine. What Mike's does have going for it is a walk-up window with a ferociously fast response time. The employees fire out slices faster than the chanting of an auctioneer who's just drunk a Red Bull. The key is to eat those bad boys as quickly as they hand them to you; you don't want Mr. Mike's for leftovers.

For the time being, there is no inside dining at Mr. Mike's. Some of the employees I talked to said indoor service was likely to resume soon, though, which can only be a good thing. If there's any pizza place in town that benefits from having a bar right inside it, it's Mr. Mike's.

— Chris Farnsworth

Best New Order

Pizza 44, 703 Pine St., 540-0441, pizza44vt.com
Caprese pie - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Caprese pie

Who eats pizza for lunch?! Not me! Who eats deep-dish pizza?! Definitely not me!

So it was strange to find myself eating a noontime, thick-crusted pizza from Pizza 44 last week. Baked in a cast-iron pan in the pizzeria's wood-fired oven, the pie was a bready skyscraper relative to the thin, crispy crusts I grew up on in pizza mecca New Haven, Conn., and mecca lite Philadelphia.

Yet Pizza 44's pan-baked Caprese pie ($18) was its own delight: The crust was airy, light and crisped-up at the edges. Downing a piece was like eating a slice of sponge cake crowned with a warm salad; the sausage we requested on half the pie ($1 extra) roughed up the purist Caprese toppings.

Pizza 44 alerts takeout customers by text when their order is ready. My phone beeped while I was drinking a beer in the parking lot biergarten of Queen City Brewery, which shares a building with Pizza 44. With the outdoor space to ourselves, my daughter and I enjoyed the pizza, the sunshine, the English-style ale and a final picnic of the season.

— Sally Pollak

Quickest Ticket to Little Italy

Big Daddy's Pizza, 177 Church St., 863-0000, Big Daddys Pizza VT on Facebook
The Tree Hugger - JEFF BARON ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jeff Baron ©️ Seven Days
  • The Tree Hugger

I lived on pizza for an entire summer in '95. I was in New York City, and my staple was Famous Ben's Pizza on Spring and Thompson. So when our food team asked me to review a local shop, I agreed. And because I love NYC-style pizza, with its soft dough and large, flat slices, I chose Big Daddy's.

A true pizza test is best taken when I have the munchies, so I skipped breakfast, did a bong hit for brunch and biked into town. To my chagrin, Daddy's didn't open until 4 p.m. But it is open until 2 a.m., and it delivers everywhere in BTV, SoBu and the 'Noosk. (Individual slices and on-site dining are on hiatus.) After killing some time, I ordered a couple pies.

The Carnivore - JEFF BARON ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jeff Baron ©️ Seven Days
  • The Carnivore

Amid the melted mozzarella, the Carnivore ($23.99 for a 20-inch) was packed with fresh, warm chunks of sausage, ham, meatballs, bacon and pepperoni. It smelled like my grandmother's kitchen and paired well with the pinot noir that I had bought earlier. Its vegetarian counterpart, the Tree Hugger ($23.99), was sown with all the crisp greens and veggies my health nut friends covet.

The giant slices dwarfed my plate and reminded me of hot summer nights in Little Italy. That's no surprise: Owner Eric Czado's great-uncle ran a pizza joint on the Lower East Side in the 1940s. That's amore.

— Jeff Baron

Best Early (Real Early) Morning Pizza

Piesanos Burlington, 176 Main St., 862-1234, piesanosvt.com
Buffalo chicken - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Buffalo chicken

After a long night out with friends, sometimes I need pizza to power me home, and Piesanos is my go-to. It might not be the best slice in the world, but it never fails to deliver when I need it most — say, at 2:45 on a Friday night (technically Saturday morning).

For as little as $13.99, I can get a 12-inch pie to share with my besties or to feed myself for a couple meals. Or, if I'm solo, I might just go for a basic cheese slice ($3.30). With Main Street views and the wafting smell of freshly baked pizza, Piesanos is a good place to eat and take in the scene, but I often grab my order to-go for the drive home.

Most days, I eat gluten-free, and Piesanos' gluten-free crust doesn't make me feel shortchanged. Not a super-adventurous eater, I typically stick to classics like cheese or pepperoni, but I was swayed recently to try the Buffalo chicken pizza topped with spicy breaded chicken, creamy ranch dressing and gooey mozzarella. Each bite was crunchy, rich and spicy.

Now I'm tempted to run through the rest of Piesanos' specialty pies. Keeping it in the family of pizza that evokes a whole different menu item — up next, chicken Parm pie.

— Reid Brown

Best People Watching

Ken's Pizza and Pub, 71 Church St., 862-3335, kenspizzavt.com
Cheese - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Cheese

Ken's Pizza and Pub is the Swiss Army knife of Burlington pizzerias. There's something for every situation: patio seating under umbrellas for Church Street Marketplace shoppers, a spacious pub with 14 TV screens for catching the latest sports, Captain Tom's Tiki Bar out back and a takeout window around the corner on Bank Street.

Again like a reliable Swiss Army knife, the actual pizza at Ken's Pizza is nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. You want leeks or goat cheese on your slice? Keep moving, pal. This is straight-up New York-style thin crust. Montréal smoked meat, banana peppers and taco seasoning are as exotic as it gets.

As a Long Island native, I'm an unapologetic pizza snob. (Don't get me started on that Chicago abomination they call deep-dish "pizza.") Recently, my family and I got two pies at Ken's: a standard cheese ($18) and a Buffalo chicken ($22).

The breaded chicken wasn't as wings-spicy as my Buffalo-native wife and I would have preferred, but the kids plowed through their cheese slices, which were neither floppy-thin nor overly doughy. The standouts of our meal were the Caesar salads, which Ken's serves with anchovies (on request) and its own homemade dressing.

There's a reason Ken's Pizza has been around since 1973, and it's not just the view.

— Ken Picard

Best Pizza Place Named After a Big City

Manhattan Pizza & Pub, 167 Main St., 658-6776, instagram.com/manspizzapub
Pepperoni - BRYAN PARMELEE ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Bryan Parmelee ©️ Seven Days
  • Pepperoni

With its thin crust and large, foldable slices, New York-style pizza is the go-to for countless pizza fans, four Ninja Turtles and at least one internet-famous subway rat. Manhattan Pizza & Pub brings a taste of the big city to Burlington but combines it with the atmosphere of a neighborhood pub — and an impressively long draft list.

Instead of ordering slices to-go like a busy New Yorker, I opted to dine in, which I was relieved to discover required proof of vaccination. I kept things simple with a slice of pepperoni ($2.93) from one of the six premade pies behind the counter.

Two minutes later, a friendly staff member brought out my freshly reheated slice. The pizza was nice and hot but not too hot. The crust was crispy — not crunchy — and the dough had a lightness that I found irresistible. Like the slice itself, the pepperonis were huge and delicious. I finished that slice so fast I can't recall if I even took the time to chew it.

Sliced pork, apples, scallions and a drizzle of maple barbecue sauce - BRYAN PARMELEE ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Bryan Parmelee ©️ Seven Days
  • Sliced pork, apples, scallions and a drizzle of maple barbecue sauce

My second slice was topped with thinly sliced pork, apples, scallions and a drizzle of maple barbecue sauce ($3.60). The unconventional toppings blended beautifully. By the time I had finished, I was happier than a subway rat tasting pizza for the first time.

— Bryan Parmelee

Best Weekly Special

Pizzeria Verità, 156 St. Paul St., 489-5644, pizzeriaverita.com
Roman-style with housemade 'nduja sausage - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Roman-style with housemade 'nduja sausage

Give me a thin-crust pizza, I've always said — until I bit into a hefty square of the thick-crusted, Roman-style pie that Pizzeria Verità serves on Thursday nights alongside its usual Neapolitan-style pizzas.

The airy crust came blistered and crisp from the wood-fired oven, piled with roasted peppers and spicy, housemade 'nduja sausage. That sausage provided an assertive counterpoint to the sweet peppers, while the crust delivered a satisfying crunch with every bite. All these qualities held up when I reheated one of the 5-by-6-inch squares ($5.50 for a square, $20 for a whole pie) the next morning for breakfast.

Verità has been a mainstay on the upscale end of Burlington's pizza scene since 2012, offering personal pies, creative cocktails, salads and antipasti in a rustic-chic downtown space. The restaurant added outdoor seating during the pandemic and offers takeout.

Verità's thin-crusted, tomato-sauced Neapolitan pies have many fans, but I found both the standard and gluten-free crusts disappointingly limp and the Margherita topping fairly bland on a recent visit. Count me among those who hope to find Roman-style on the menu more than once a week. If not, I am always more than happy with a light meal of antipasto, which comes with focaccia, a glass of wine and the restaurant's terrific tiramisu.

— Candace Page

Best Drunk Slice

Three Needs Tap Room & Pizza Cube, 185 Pearl St., 859-0760, threeneeds.net
The Duff slice - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • The Duff slice

Fans of "The Simpsons" know the name Duff well. Homer Simpson's favorite beer is a cultural touchstone at Burlington's Three Needs Tap Room, which for years hosted afternoon keg parties called Duff Hour that coincided with syndicated broadcasts of Fox Broadcasting's first family.

After its move from College Street to Pearl Street in 2012, the Needs opened up a little side business in its front vestibule: the Pizza Cube. Its flagship offering is the Duff, a pie made with a savory beer-cheese sauce and topped with bacon and green onions. Veg heads can get it with tomatoes and spinach instead, and flavor cravers might want to try it "rasta"-style with three kinds of peppers.

Like all of the Cube's offerings, the Duff slice ($3.75) is thin and crispy without feeling insubstantial. The special sauce gives it a nice tang, and the flavor lands best in its meaty form.

The greatest part of the Cube: If you're hanging out inside or out back in the sheltered, smoke-friendly patio, you can add a slice to your bar tab. As Mr. Burns would say: "Excellent."

— Jordan Adams

Best Workout Routine

La Boca Wood Fired Pizzeria, 1127 North Ave., Suite 32, 399-2396, labocas.com
Dan's New Workout Routine - KATIE HODGES ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Katie Hodges ©️ Seven Days
  • Dan's New Workout Routine

It took several calls over the course of three minutes to get through to the New North End's pizza spot at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. But La Boca is worth the busy signal.

Just 30 minutes and a text alert later, the restaurant was sliding my pies out the window to me: a Dan's New Workout Routine ($19) and an Apple Cheddar ($17). La Boca's pizzas aren't the cheapest, but the restaurant has a full menu, including vegan options.

I tried the Dan's first, thinking the Apple Cheddar would make for a better dessert. That pizza is juicy. Crumbled Bolognese meat was paired with gooey ricotta on a perfectly foldable and chewy slice so flavorful that I could barely put it down to take notes. La Boca's just-burnt-enough crust left ash on my fingers that I hastily licked off before gobbling a second slice.

The Apple Cheddar had all the decadence and comfort of Vermont in one cheesy bite. The maple hit me first, starting a cascade of sweet and savory flavors as the crispy bacon and caramelized onion kicked in. I couldn't really taste the apple, but the thin slices added a satisfying crunch.

I'd make eating La Boca my new workout routine every day, if only my wallet and high-waisted jeans would allow it.

— Katie Hodges

Most Scientific Order of Toppings

Folino's, 71 S. Union St., Unit 1, 881-8822, ext. 3, folinopizza.com
Detroit-style pepperoni - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Detroit-style pepperoni

When it comes to the science of pizza layers, Detroit has cracked the code: dough, toppings, cheese, then sauce. The cheese is the hottest part of the pizza; when on top, it's mouth-scorching. But a nice little dollop of sauce is all you need to protect the roof of your mouth.

The crew at Folino's gets it. Even straight out of the oven, the chunky, rectangular Detroit-style pizza, baked in a steel pan, is the right temperature for diving into. Which is good, because once I see it, I'm not waiting.

Most of Folino's pies are apizza-style — thin-crusted and slightly charred from the wood-fired oven — but I tend to go for the focaccia-like Detroit-style options, which are the right size for a big personal pizza or a splittable add-on to one of the thin-crusted pies. I shared the pepperoni ($14.50) and a salad ($6.75) on a recent visit.

The menu calls the Detroit-style a "cousin" of Sicilian deep-dish, and the fluffy, doughy center of each slice certainly fulfills my Sicilian cravings. The cheese goes edge to edge, delivering a crispy-sided slice while satisfying my cheesy-bread cravings, too.

Pies are available for takeout or to bring next door to neighborhood bar Wallflower Collective and pair with a cocktail. Folino's dine-in system is quick and easy, though: Grab a table, order and pay at the counter, get a frosty glass from the cooler, and crack open whatever you BYO-ed. Even on a busy night, I was in and out (and stuffed) in less than half an hour.

— Jordan Barry

Correction, October 13, 2021: An earlier version of this story misstated the length of time that Pizzeria Ida ages its dough. The dough is aged overnight.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Pizzapalooza"

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