BURLINGTON - This is a tale of two pizzas: one that is coal-fired and crispy, another that is wood-fired and authentic Italian. What makes this such an interesting story is that both styles of pizza come out of the same kitchen at a restaurant named Jack's.
Technically, the full name of this Burlington spot is Jack's Coal Fired Pizza, but according to Executive Chef Sean McDonald, the coal-fired pies are only part of the experience.
"We want to give the guests the option of something different, something unique, something you don't see at any other pizza place in town."
"We offer two styles of pizza," Sean explained. "Our coal-fired pizza which is our namesake. The coal fire cooks at a high temperature. It's a larger oven. It's got a four-inch thick hearth on the bottom which gives you that nice crispy bottom crust, and the coal emanates crazy heat which gives you a nice crispy, charred, crackery crust.
"We also offer a wood-fired pizza. It's a Marra Forni oven, smaller. It chars up nicely and gets a crisp outer crust. Yet it's got a little chew and a little pull to the dough."
The coal-fired pizzas are larger, but thinner, with crispy edges that are almost burnt. The wood-fired pies are smaller, blistered around the sides, and soft in the center.
Coming out of the coal-fired oven, there is a Steak & Cheese pizza layered with seasoned, shaved steak, blue cheese, peppadew peppers, and arugula. The Swine & Sprouts pizza features roasted Brussels sprouts and smoky pork belly with a drizzle of balsamic. Then there is the top-selling Meatball pizza, known as The Polpetta.
"Hand-crushed tomato sauce," Sean began describing. "Fresh mozzarella that we grate in-house. Then we take our fresh meatballs, we break them up a little bit so every bite will have a nice meatball flavor. Save a little room for a little bit of caramelized onions… ricotta cheese, which will brown up and get nice and crispy in the oven. Fresh grated Romano cheese."
From the wood-fired side of things, popular choices include the Salami pizza topped with oversized slices of pepperoni. The Forager pie is packed with four types of wild mushrooms. Then there is ultimate in authenticity, the classic Margherita pizza.
"You have all your components," Sean said. "Your tomato, cheese, little bit of oil, salt, your basil. You see the yeast escaping, getting that nice bubbling crispy crust. Makes me want to eat it right now."
To start your meal, Jack's serves up cauliflower charred up in the coal-oven; crispy whole milk mozzarella that's fried to order; and some truly incredible coal-fired chicken wings marinated with lemon, rosemary, and thyme.
"Our wings are amazing," Sean promised. "The skin is crispy. All the herbs are sizzling. It's a little bit healthier than your traditional chicken wing you might find at any other restaurant which is put in a fryolator dripping with grease. Ours are all roasted fresh in our ovens and never see a fryolator."
Rounding out the menu are Italian-American classics like Spaghetti and Meatballs and Chicken Parmesan. For dessert, check out the Bannaffee Pie with vanilla custard cream, sliced bananas, toffee bits and chocolate chips.
You can end up with a deliciously memorable meal, from two pizzerias, all under one roof.
You can find Jack's at 2 Wall Street in Burlington, and online at jackscfp.com.
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