Adam Caira / Staff Photo Local Spinach salad served with Sunny Meadow spinach, poached pear, radish, Bailey Hazen blue cheese, ouse-cured NEFF porkbelly crisps, and balsamic viniagrette. Photographed as served at Positive Pie in Plainfield Vermont on Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Pizza lovers, rejoice: There are now even more tables at which to enjoy your favorite Positive Pie combinations.
And Central Vermont diners, rejoice along with them: The Positive Pie Tap & Grill now offers a sophisticated yet accessible lunch and dinner experience in Plainfield.
Positive Pie has been offering slices and takeout of its signature New York-style pizza from a small storefront in Plainfield since 1999. Late last year, Positive Pie owner Carlo Rovetto purchased the adjacent space vacated when River Run closed its doors for good; after significant renovations, a much-expanded version of Positive Pie opened early last month.
Newly stained and sanded, the wood beams glow. The custom-molded concrete bar gleams. And in the built-to-spec kitchen, the cooks chop, slice, and sauté offerings ranging from double-cooked chicken wings to pan-roasted wild Sockeye salmon.
“We’re killing it at dinnertime,” chef Ryan Zacher says. “We’re getting a nice mix of the dinner crowd with the burger-and-pizza crowd.”
Many of the entreé options feature Vermont ingredients. There’s Vermont Pasta Company goat cheese ravioli with brown butter and candied walnuts on a bed of spinach; fish and chips battered with Greensboro’s Hill Farmstead Brewery’s Edward ale; and gnocchi with spicy pork sausage and oyster mushrooms from Lost River Farm in Marshfield.
For a lighter meal or just a starter, try wild Maine blue mussels braised in Trapp Golden Helles lager; cheddar ale flavored with Cabot cheese; or the very popular spinach salad from Sunny Meadow Farm, a Cabot farm owned by one of the restaurant’s pizza cooks.
The Plainfield menu offers a few items not available in Montpelier, including a “PBLT” of crispy, house-cured pork belly, lettuce and tomato with black pepper aioli on a house-made bun; and a vegetarian sandwich combining basil-pesto chèvre spread, poached tempeh, and oven-roasted tomato, dubbed “Drag Through the Garden.”
To accompany your meal, there are nearly 20 beers on tap plus a signature cocktail list heavy on Vermont-distilled spirits. The bartenders also pull drafts of Rookie’s Root beer from Burlington and Aqua Vitea kombucha from West Salisbury.
A coloring-page kids’ menu offers young diners kid-tested favorites like mac and cheese, plain buttered noodles, chicken with veggies, or grilled cheese.
Of course, it’s pizza that’s made Positive Pie famous, and all the favorite combinations are still available. The slice shop hasn’t changed, and a steady stream of customers continue to walk in for a slice and a soda, or a pie (or two or three) to take home.
The pizza kitchen remains the pizza kitchen, floating in a fine dusting of flour as the cooks roll, stretch, and form the dough into thin-crust pizza, baked stromboli, and calzone stuffed with fresh ricotta. Renovations behind the counters now connect the pizza kitchen to the bar and “everything else” kitchen; what was the alley has been transformed into the office of manager Max Birnbaum, who oversees the activity with a wry smile and calm demeanor.
Birnbaum, a Plainfield native, began his tenure with Positive Pie in 2005 as a pizza maker, eventually moving to the Montpelier location where he became sous chef. When the expansion plans became reality, Birnbaum accepted the invitation to manage the Plainfield site. He doesn’t spend much time in that back office, opting instead to chat with customers, vendors and a staff that more than quadrupled last month.
“We hired strong staff that we knew,” Birnbaum says of the expansion, which increased the restaurant’s employee roster from six to 30. “We pulled some staff from Montpelier who we’d worked with before. The service is really strong.”
The two sites share much, including many menu offerings, but a few key differences stand out. The custom-designed, poured-concrete bar in Plainfield seats 15 and is longer than the bar in Montpelier. “I’m kind of proud of that,” Birnbaum quips quietly, the closest he ever comes to boasting.
Which location serves the best pizza? Birnbaum declines to answer, responding instead that the pizza is “the same but different. The water quality affects the crust. The same way pizza is different in New Haven and Brooklyn. They both say they have the best pizza in the world.”
Sylvia Fagin writes about food and agriculture from her home in Montpelier. Contact her via her blog “Aar, Naam ~ Come, Eat,” at sylviafagin.wordpress.com, or follow her on Twitter @sylviafagin.MORE IN Food & Dining
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