pascolo-3-copyWORDS // David Scherr
PHOTO // ben sarle

Exactly halfway up Church Street, Burlington’s famed pedestrian thoroughfare, sits Pascolo, an excellent new Italian-themed restaurant and a strong addition to Burlington’s ever-expanding top-quality culinary scene. Visitors walking by on a summer evening can’t miss the inviting outdoor seating, and those who decide on an inside seat will be pleased with the welcoming and well-appointed downstairs restaurant space.

Rustic stone foundation-style walls line parts of the restaurant, with soft red brick complementing the stone. The kitchen can be seen from the restaurant, separated by a brick wall with large arched windows. Along the bottom of the wall, just under the windows, cordwood is stacked for the huge wood-fired oven that can be seen within. The bar area has tasteful white tile underneath the wooden top, contributing nicely to the overall sense of stepping back into a simpler era of wood, stone, and brick. In a clever touch, even the sound-dampening cork on the ceiling is designed to look like an old stone construction.

The Farmhouse Group, the individuals behind the wildly successful Burlington-area restaurants The Farmhouse, Guild, and El Cortijo, continues to expand its culinary empire with this new venture, a nicely executed new page in their remarkable portfolio.

pascolo-11-copyDiners looking to start with a cocktail have a number of excellent choices. As autumn approaches the Seconde Casa should be at the top of the list. Made with rye as a base, the flavor is lightened with a touch of lemon and a pleasant, but not overwhelming, dose of rhubarb flavor from house rhubarb bitters. An unique and imaginative drink, it will warm one up as the days get colder. Another smart drink option is the Ostrogoth, a gin drink with a clean, crisp flavor, sweetened slightly by honey and chamomile. A sage leaf garnish adds the contrasting hint of an earthy scent as one sips the concoction.

Starting out the meal with appetizers is a must, and a diner would be crazy to miss the Caprese. Made with incredible heirloom tomatoes bursting with flavor and freshness, along with soft mozzarella, creamy basil and olive oil, the combination of flavors gives such an immediate and easy pleasure that it’s almost reminiscent of comfort food. The Finocchio dish, a salad that includes shaved fennel, cherry tomatoes and arugula, also benefits from the incredible freshness of the ingredients. The kitchen was smart enough to know that the produce, combined expertly, needed little else to show itself off—the ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves.

Those eating dinner here will struggle to choose from the abundant menu, but don’t miss one of the pasta dishes with the house-made noodles. One excellent example is the Sugo Di Agnello, made with lamb ragu, basil, and a touch of mint. The dish does not skimp on the meat, and the sauce is rich. With impressive inventiveness, however, the dish does not taste or feel heavy. The house-made noodles are light, flavorful, thin, and perfectly cooked. The basil adds lightness, perfectly balancing the meat and sauce.

Compounding the difficulty in choosing meals at Pascolo, the pizza menu is excellent and top-quality, cooked in the wood-fired oven. Made thin-crust style with quality ingredients, the Prosciutto pizza, for example, has soft, perfectly salted, melts-in-your mouth prosciutto slices along with fresh spinach leaves and just the right amount of cheese. These pizzas are not topped with ingredients that have been chopped half to death—instead a diner gets whole slices of prosciutto and whole spinach leaves, allowing a full appreciation of the top-quality produce and meat that the restaurant uses.

Both visitors to, and citizens of, the Burlington area should be grateful for this new restaurant. Wonderful ingredients, excellent service and attention to detail, and a great ambiance whether eating on Church Street or inside the restaurant, Pascolo is a welcome addition to the Burlington food scene.