Though heavily populated, Burlington's North Avenue is hardly a culinary corridor. And few restaurateurs have been eager to do something about that. New North End residents Peter Grimard and Marylene Boileau just did, however, by opening La Boca's Wood Fired Pizzeria last Tuesday at 1127 North Avenue, in a former KeyBank branch.
"My wife wanted to add that to the community," says Grimard. Luckily, the stay-at-home dad and bartender didn't lack for experience; Grimard worked in the restaurant business (mostly at Halvorson's Upstreet Café;) for many years before his kids arrived.
The couple aims to offer a local dining option to New North Enders, Grimard says, and the sticking-close-to-home theme carries over to the menu and tap list. The eight taps currently pour beers from Simple Roots Brewing and Queen City Brewery, as well as sips of Citizen Cider, all from Burlington. From farther afield, Kingdom Brewing of Newport and Bennington's Northshire Brewery are also represented. "I love Switchback [Brewing], but I just can't carry them on tap," Grimard says. With the popular brew available, he worries that "No one is going to try all these other great beers out there." Bottles do include familiar fare such as Budweiser and Long Trail Brewing.
Chef Chris Ferguson takes a similarly Vermont-oriented tack in sourcing for his kitchen. By next week, all of the pizzas' tomatoes will originate on a farm in Sheldon. Local companies make cheeses and meats, too, which include sausages from Bessery's Quality Market, just up North Avenue.
Starters include chicken saltimbocca, fire-roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and white balsamic vinegar, and a house Caesar salad with a tofu-and-miso-based dressing. Pizzas, portioned to share, hold a wide variety of uncommon toppings. One comes dressed with chicken, broccoli and a house gremolata. Another emulates a loaded baked potato, complete with spuds, bacon and a sour-cream drizzle. A white anchovy-and-olive pie shares menu space with the Chipotle & Honey, a pizza flavored with chipotle peppers and drizzles of chipotle olive oil and organic honey.
For now, La Boca's is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Grimard hopes to add weekend brunch in the near future, he says; if there's demand, lunch hours might pop up as well. The restaurant's early popularity has already driven the owners to make one change: They'll soon hang sound-absorbing tapestries and drapes to dim the sounds of the crowd to a manageable murmur.