Three Tomatoes Trattoria – Burlington, VT

Antique brick arches at Three Tomatoes Trattoria in Burlington, VermontUna cucina rustica – Step through the door on Burlington’s Church Street, then follow the curving staircase down to another world. You have just entered a rustic Italian kitchen, complete with soft colored, time-worn brick walls and arches, tile floors and pleasantly glowing lights. Catch glimpses of the roaring oven fires where the baking is done to order.

It’s a paradox: on one hand you’re enclosed in the cozy warmth of an underground grotto. On the other, you’re impressed with the style and quiet energy of the formally clothed waitstaff; all reminiscent of restaurants throughout Italy.

“Can I bring you something to drink?” asked Michelle, our waitress. Three Tomatoes has a full bar as well as over thirty varieties of Italian wines available by the glass. A nice, round Valpolicella will help tingle your taste buds as you work your way through the menu, be it for lunch or dinner.The bar at Three Tomatoes, Burlington, Vermont

My husband has been on a portobello kick ever since having them prepared steak-style: slathered with garlic butter then roasted on a hot grill. Three Tomatoes filled his fantasy with a sliced grilled mushroom on a hearty artisan bread spread with goat cheese and basil-pine nut pesto, all from local farms and bakeries.

There are so many luncheon choices here! I was having difficulty zeroing in on a selection. Michelle helped me out. I’ve always loved Three Tomatoes’ “white pizzas” – all the good things, minus the tomatoes: goat cheese, anchovies, artichoke hearts. They are perfect for a summer lunch out on Church Street at the restaurant’s cordoned-off umbrellaed table area.

wood-fired brick pizza ovenToday, I wanted “small” so Michelle suggested the “pizzetta” – about 6″ in diameter. It arrived, right from the brick oven, nicely puffed and dressed with caramelized onion, chunks of imported San Marzano tomatoes, and dollops of creamy goat cheese; the perfect size for a perfect lunch.

Once again, this was a “sneak peek” for us. Only after settling the bill did we reveal our true purpose and told the manager, John Palmer that Three Tomatoes passed the test with room to spare. John offered to share the photos you see here. Showing the Church Street outdoor dining area will have to wait until Spring – the winter of 2011 has seen to that.

In addition to the regular dishes you’d expect at a trattoria, I was overjoyed to see saltimbocca listed. Literally translated “jump in the mouth”, Three TomatoeSaltimbocca Recipes’ time-honored dish is made with chicken instead of veal. It’s simple.

The “scallops” can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to impress your guests. Sometimes, they are served with a cream sauce, but in my opinion, that destroys the piquancy of those served with pan juices & lemon. Just don’t substitute dried sage.

There is more to Church Street than food. Once Church Street was turned into a pedestrian mall back in 1981, it attracted small specialty shops, cafés, art galleries and strollers. The street still thrives today, although various shops have come and gone, victims of a fluctuating economy. At night, music fills the air. By day, children romp and climb on the boulders that were made part of the landscaping. Iron and wood benches line the street, providing spots to sit, chat and people-watch, or in the case of one enormous Bull Mastiff, sleep in the sun.

Church Street is the essence of Burlington; vibrant, international, and timeless for young and old alike. Andiamo!

Three Tomatoes Trattoria
Church Street, Burlington
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