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Craft Pizza and Community Coming to Downtown Barre

Pearl Street Pizza will open soon in Barre. From left, owners Chris Ruiz, Wilson Ballantyne, and Stefano Coppola; and head chef Sara Chase. Photo by Chris Therrien.
With game nights, DJs, live music, and art curated by Studio Place Arts, a youthful, family-inspired hub of delicious pizza, craft cocktails, beer, and wine, Pearl Street Pizza aims to hit artisanal high notes in Barre.

When I reached out to Stefano Coppola, owner of Morse Block Deli, about his upcoming pizza restaurant in Barre, he replied: “Can you meet Monday? We’ll be firing up the oven.” In fact, it is this very oven — a blue mosaic-tiled Stefano Ferrara Forni — that inspires interest in Pearl Street Pizza. This is no ordinary oven; it’s an appliance coveted by pizza cooks worldwide. Handmade by its namesake, Stefano Ferrara, whose family in Naples, Italy has been manufacturing such ovens for 100 years; this wood fired kiln’s function is to cook Neapolitan style pizzas quickly. With a temperature of 905 degrees Fahrenheit it can yield a flavorful pizza in 90 seconds. 

Pearl Street Pizza started with a years-long dream shared between Coppola and friend and fellow chef Wilson Ballantyne. But it wasn’t until Chris Ruiz, former bartender at AR Market, mentioned to Coppola that he wished to open a live music venue that their ideas coalesced. 

Work began this September, when Pete Colman, owner of AR Market and Vermont Salumi, purchased the building where the market is located. Wanting to focus more on his market and charcuterie production, Coleman offered to rent space to the three entrepreneurs so their dreams could become reality. 

Completing the crew will be head chef Sara Chase, who assisted Coppola at Morse Block Deli. Coppola, Ballantyne, and Chase, all graduates of New England Culinary Institute, have extensive culinary experience, while Ruiz has a solid background in wine, beer, and craft cocktails. 

In addition to his bartending skills, Ruiz is keenly enthusiastic about food, making him the perfect complement to this partnership. His bar will feature eight beer taps (two fitted with Czech-style side-pull faucets delivering a flavorful, creamy head for lagers and pilsners), eight wines by the glass, and craft cocktails prepared with local liquors. For wine, Italy will be well represented, with a few local wines along with some obscure organic labels from Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

On the night I went to Pearl Street Pizza, they were experimenting with dough proofed for four days. The Margherita pizza it produced featured mozzarella cheese sourced from Maplebrook Farm, luscious and silky. Will this dough or cheese make the cut? Only time will tell. Chase says eventually they plan on producing fresh mozzarella in-house. One thing for certain is that their pizza sauce — made in a traditional manner with imported Gustarosso San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand — is the best I’ve tasted in Vermont. Along with the 14-inch round Neapolitan style pizza, they will offer a thicker, ‘Grandma’ square pan pizza, served by the slice. Coppola describes this style:  

“Grandma pizza is similar to the Italian ‘pizza alla casalinga’ (housewife-style pizza), these are the kind of pizzas you’d traditionally get in Italy if you were invited to someone’s home, without access to a wood-fired or brick oven. Baked at a lower temperature, in a sheet pan with a dough fermented at room temperature using a sourdough starter. Crispy crust is a must. Ours will have a slightly thicker than traditional crust, with a much fluffier interior, similar to a Sicilian Square.”

And yes, Pearl Street will offer both vegan and gluten-free versions of their pizza. 

In addition to pizza, the menu will feature weekly homemade pasta specials. Appetizers will include caesar and burrata salads, a charcuterie plate, along with garlic bread, mussels, meatballs, and octopus all cooked in the wood burning oven. Homemade desserts such as ricotta cheesecake and tiramisu will be made in-house.

Expect food at this pizzeria to be taken up a notch. The wings, for example, will be cooked sous vide then flash baked at high heat in the aforementioned Stefano Ferrara oven until they are extra crisp and served with a fiery Vesuvius sauce infused with Calabrian chilis. These are not your run of-the-mill Buffalo-style wings, nor are they for the faint of heart. Chase mentioned Ballantyne has a passion for growing chili peppers and makes a hot habanero honey — another ingredient sure to become a special pizza topping. 

Like his Morse Block Deli, Coppola will source most ingredients from local farms, while keeping prices affordable. He asserts his goal is to support its “employees and the community in our family-friendly atmosphere” while providing “something for every demographic of our community — from a cheap slice and a beer, to a fancy bottle of wine and osso bucco for two.” 

Pearl Street Pizza plans to open in December. You can follow their progress on Facebook and Instagram.