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Best Bites: White Rock Pizza & Pub

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848 Route 14, Woodbury 225-5915

There are some tastes worth driving for: red hots in Plattsburgh, smoked meat and poutine in Montreal, and now, 200-year-old pizza in Woodbury. Okay, the pizza itself only dates back as far as your order, but the crisceto, or starter, first soured as Napoleon was touring Italy. And seriously, you can taste the history.

I wrote about White Rock Pizza when it was just a take-out having ghost problems. Following a volunteer exorcism that resulted from the story, the pub and sit-down restaurant is now open in owner Maggie Zuccardy's historic home, serving pizza, quesadillas and beer and wine. This includes Familia Zuccardi Wine, made by Zuccardy's Argentinean cousins. I don't drink, but even I appreciated the Malbec, almost as thick and smooth as a reduction, with a deeply chocolaty finish.

I started with a dozen fist-sized wings (pictured). Though the skin is not crisp, juice literally flows out of the meat at first bite. The hot wings were mild, but zippy. Though usually not a fan of too-sweet honey barbecue sauce, I was enchanted with White Rock's darker, less saccharine version. The freshly-made ranch sauce was out-of-this world tangy, and as lusciously creamy as the blue cheese.

To try more than one of White Rock's specialty pies, I got a large, split between the "Garlic Love" and "Meat Me for Dinner" flavors (pictured). First of all, the crust — though essentially a sourdough, it has little of the tart San Francisco flavor you'd expect. Instead, imagine long-aged cheddar.

The Garlic Love replaces marinara with smooth garlic sauce and mozzarella with a thick layer of fresh ricotta. Add more fresh garlic and basil leaves, and sweet cherry tomatoes, and you've got a complex and highly addictive combination that reminded me as much of eating a stuffed pasta dish as great pizza.

I have never had a meat lover's pizza of remotely comparable quality to the Meat Me for Dinner. The thick, flavorful bacon was perfectly crisp, the sweet Italian sausage slices full of sage and the homemade meatballs ethereally fluffy. There's pepperoni and ham on there for good measure, but what perfects the pie is the sauce. Made from tomatoes stewed with butter, the sauce is fresh and brilliantly sharp-tasting. It is the perfect foil to the Ischia-grown crisceto. Together, they create what may well be the best pizza in Vermont.

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