Parker Pie, Squared
No matter the season, pizza has never been high on the list of reasons people visit Vermont. But since the Green Mountain Special from Parker Pie in the Northeast Kingdom was anointed one of the 50 best pizzas in the country by Food Network Magazine, a steady stream of food adventurers have added a visit to this backcountry treasure to their bucket list.
Vermont country stores have incubated a number of successful ventures, and the Lake Parker Country Store in West Glover is a perfect example. In 2005, Cavan Meese and Ben Trevits set up their electric oven in the back of the white-clapboard country store and created what would become a pizza destination. The cozy atmosphere and high-quality food quickly attracted a devoted following.
Lucky for them, the original Parker Pie—a howling success by any standards—has cloned itself, and now there are two places where patrons can enjoy the prize-winning Green Mountain Special that comes loaded with apples, cheddar, baby spinach, bacon, red onion, garlic and a drizzle of maple syrup, almost all of it from local farms in season. All is artfully arranged atop the handiwork of Trevits, a trained chef, who makes a thin hand-tossed crust of whole-wheat and white flour, plus maple syrup and spices that are top secret, the whole sprinkled with Parmesan.
“The main reason we use maple syrup is to activate the yeast,” Meese explained. “Lots of places use Sprite to activate the dough, but the minerally maple flavor is nice for the dough.”
Besides, what else would you use in Vermont?
The new location opened last year in a refurbished hangar at Newport State Airport, which is either in Coventry or Newport, depending on what you are reading, and is, not surprisingly, called Parker Pie Wings.
The restaurant is not yet as busy as the original, making parking a cinch and the wait for a pizza quite acceptable. These facts are worth considering as patrons of the original Parker Pie, which opened in 2005, can attest. Until this year, they waited as much as an hour and a half during peak times for their order; now they only have to wait an hour because of the new ovens.
So West Glover patrons will immediately recognize the significance of our experience at the Wings branch on a Saturday in August: We arrived at 7:15 with immediate seating at the bar, where we ordered drinks and placed our food orders. Ten minutes later we were seated at our table and the appetizer wings arrived as we were sitting down. Pizzas were not far behind.
Meese has said he hoped the airport place would take some of the load off West Glover.
“It’s a way to grow business without busting out of our seams, and we have table service at Wings, which we don’t have at West Glover.”
For some the table service is a plus, along with parking. It became a very sore subject for nearby residents four years ago when the West Glover restaurant tripled its capacity and the places people chose to park inconvenienced many neighbors. Now there are rules and enforcers. Parking at the airport? No problem.
And the recipes are the same in both places, the execution equally skillful. What’s more, you don’t have to eat just pizza: Scott’s wings with assorted dressings, nachos three ways, subs, sandwiches and, for the more abstemious, salads. Dave’s Special adds dried cranberries, candied pecans and Bayley Hazen blue cheese to mixed greens and apples and serves it with maple balsamic vinaigrette. It doesn’t taste abstemious.
The menu was designed to source a lot of ingredients locally and there is much to admire. Where else but in Vermont would a pizza place put an extensive list of local farms and producers on its menu? The restaurant also fries its own chips, brines its own pickles and makes the salsas and dressing in house. A new addition this year is the French Canadian poutine, a snack of cheese curds, French fries and gravy, perfect for the growing boy or marathoner. It seems to have taken over the Northeast Kingdom.
The Friday night special is oysters on the half shell, straight up from Boston. The list of bottled beers is extensive, and there are 12 on tap, including several from the world-famous Hill Farmstead in Greensboro. There’s trivia night and taco night in addition to burgers and live music a couple of nights a week.
Most people don’t realize it but pies and cakes can be special-ordered, too. Trevits makes excellent pies. Meese, whose parents are involved in Bread and Puppet Theater, travels extensively for his work in theater production, but he and Trevits, both in their mid-30s, want to live here.
“I couldn’t imagine living any other place than here,” said Trevits. “We want to keep the money in the area and build a sustainable economy and be less affected by the world.”
“Ben and I still hold meetings on the top of a mountain when we are snowboarding,” said Meese. “Snowboarding is sort of our golf.”