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Feb 7, 2008 05:01 PM

Fireworks - Brattleboro, VT - Review

Visited the new Italian joint, Fireworks, last night for dinner. I had heard a third-hand account of confused service and many new restaurant kinks.. so initially I planned to wait a while to visit. The sign was inviting though, as was the thought of pizza from a real-deal pizza oven, so I caved in.

It was ~70% full on a Wednesday night around 7pm. The first thing that struck me was the setup and decor. Very warm, great use of the space. The half-moon bar is directly in the center of the restaurant with the open kitchen off to the side and tables from front to rear of the space. The ceiling is high and the front of the restaurant is windows on three sides, which provides spaciousness in spades. They could certainly be cramming more tables into the room, but they keep it comfy. Lighting is soft, upscale casual feel. The decor had some unique quirks that I quite enjoyed. There were ramekins of high quality sea salt on all the tables and the wine list was printed on empty wine bottles.

The wine list was decent, offering a few selections of both red and white under three tongue-in-cheek headings, 'cheap' 'decent', and 'good'. I'm not a wine guy, and opted for beer. Good selection of brews.. Otter Creek makes a special pale ale for Fireworks (Fireworks Ale). I had a Brooklyn IPA. There was another OC selection, Sam Adams winter, and they also offered some macro-brewed piss. My beer was fresh.

The menu is succinct and includes apps, pizzas, main courses & pastas- about 6-7 items in each category. We ordered Sopa de Lima, Salt and Pepper Fried Calamari, Baked Goat Cheese with Olives and Tomatoes, and a White Clam Pizza. The soup was the best thing of the night- zesty lime, tender chicken, fresh queso blanco and supple avocado. Very balanced spice yet robust flavor. The calamari was tender, not greasy, and had a nice flaky panko-like crust. It was bit salty, and I realized that was due mostly to the pepper-infused mayo served to dip. The goat cheese dip was served with crispy crostini squares.. Despite the presence of large, unwieldy roasted tomato strips and savory black olives, it fell a little flat and bland (tasted like, well, goat cheese. hrumph.) The white pizza arrived in a timely fashion afterwards. Despite being more like American Flatbread than Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza (it was very crispy and lacked that inner-crust chew), it was full of very fresh, thick chunks of chopped clam. Perhaps a bit too much parsley, but the garlic, clams, and lemon hint dominated. I hope not to come across as too picky, overall I was very happy with my meal.

Prices were on the higher end of very reasonable. My beer was $4, most wines were in the 5-6$/glass range.. The pizza was $11 or $12 and was enough for 2. Appetizers ran around $7 each. Meat and pasta entrees hovered around the mid-to-upper teens.

The service was aces. Waitress answered all questions with confidence and had a great comeback to my question about specials.. "Everything's special!" Nice :-) The owner stopped by to check on the status of my meal, and he seems very passionate about pizza and Italian cuisine in general. He was actually slaving over the stove most of the night, getting his hands dirty.

I'll certainly be back. Next time, I'll revisit that exquisite soup and probably steer towards an entree as opposed to pizza. I am a big pasta fan and it was good to see a ricotta gnocchi and pappardelle bolognese on the regular menu. I can also see the bar here being a regular hangout... They offer a burger which would be perfect with a cold one and a barstool on an upcoming spring evening.

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  1. <<Waitress answered all questions with confidence and had a great comeback to my question about specials.. "Everything's special!" Nice :-) >>

    That's only a great comeback if it's true. And it would be a rare restaurant indeed in which EVERY item on the menu is "special" every night of the week.

    Thanks for the review. Where is this place? Their website isn't much help, it says "73 Main Street", but I'm not sure if that means it's near the Latchis, or if it's on the other end of town somewhere towards the library.

    2 Replies
    1. re: signothetimes53

      Thanks goodbyeohio for the premier review! The owner of Fireworks is Matthew Blau formerly of Max's and other great Brattleboro restaurants that he has established and then moved on from to his next project. Location is on the hill on Main St . -yes close to Latchis - and across from Mocha Joes.
      Cannot wait to compare the salt and pepper calamari to Yuet Lee in San Fran. that is my litmus test.

      1. re: signothetimes53

        true.. true.. just liked the playful, laid-back attitude of the server. this place could have easily gone for a stuffy vibe and thankfully they didn't

      2. When we walked by it over the weekend, I was attracted to the name (ridiculously hoping that it would be serving spicy food), but when I realized it was another pizza/"italian" place I was seriously disappointed. There is already Adagio close by which I have yet to meet or hear one person say anything near a rave review of and now we have another pizza/pasta place?

        I'm glad to hear that the food was decent and I'm intrigued by the soup that was described, so I'm sure at some point I will try this place, but I guess its too much to expect a real risk like a pho place or maybe even an attempt at Mexican...

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bri

          Crowded for opening weeks still, but had two meals there now. It is not just another B'boro Italian place, and to compare it to Addagio is way off track. That Sopa de Lima was indeed fantastic, a true rich chicken broth with perfect lime balance and ample chunks of white meat, avocado, feta cheese and fresh cilantro -I think it is the best item on the menu. A close second is the carmelized pear and prosciutto with gorgonzola and arugula appetizer. So far, I tried the garlic shrimp pizza, and the not tooooo thin crust had plenty of chew, and a bonafide brick oven (wood fired perhaps?) crispy outer edge - toppings were just right and ample. Eager to try the white clam pizza and mushroom one next.
          Calamari could not have a better texture and was perfectly crispy (new place=fresh oil) but seemed a little weak on any salt-pepper or other interesting spice in the coating, and the mayo based dip was ok - but I would have preferred a few wedges of lime and some fresh cilantro and much more kick to the sauce. Just alone with salt and pepper added was pretty great skipping the dip altogether.
          A friend ordered from the bottom entree section of the menu -and was served an unappealing looking pile of sliced skirt steak with melting gogonzola, mushrooms and some smashed potatoes, and pretty green brocolli rabe -Overall, this plate was a good size portion (and price at $20.) and nothing bad about it in flavor but not what you come to Fireworks for. Wedge salad was good - have had better, and the blue cheese dressing amount was skimpy, could have asked for more probably. The mussels were in a tomato based broth and were a little undercooked - imagine that. Nothing to rave about but were fresh tasting, the sauce mundane. (Much better at Peter Havens in a cream sauce)
          On draft fresh Stella Artois and Guniness were big relief as options from a boring list of VT microbrew and Bud.
          Now after all that - I will go back, again and again - mmmm that soup! I saw the chef from Putney co-op and farmer's market and then Sarkis Market - the pony tail guy who makes great burritos and fish tacos - back in the open kitchen- and I know he does some authentic Mexican cooking. I hope this place stays since I cannot eat any other 'same-old-same-old' pizza in town - and at last we have the real deal in gourmet pizza - and some tasty mexi-delicious items too.
          This is not a fancy place - open kitchen to the dining area and nice space keeps it simple yet warm in atmosphere. Our waitstaff was charming and patient and very capable with the crowded scene there this weekend.
          Now we just need a great Vietnamese place in town.

          1. re: hopangel

            I tried the clam chowder yesterday for takeout since I was working. While the staff was nice, they do not have it together yet. I had to wait a bit before even getting my order in. I asked for a cup and when I saw my order written up it was for a bowl- I even mentioned again that I just wanted a cup The waitress told me they only had one size. So I waited about 10 more minutes and saw my soup sitting on the counter, and told the waitress that I could see it, She got it for me, rang it up and tried to charge me for the larger size, I told her that I just ordered a cup and pointed out on the menu that a cup size is available. So in the end I got the bowl size at the cup size price. As for the soup itself, it is written up as traditional clam chowder with bacon, mine had no bacon and it was on the thin side.It was very herby, lots of parsley and potatoes. So it was just alright, I certainly would not classify it as traditional clam chowder and I would not get it again. I will try the other soup. I dont know at dinner, but at lunch time you go up and give your order then they bring to your table- they give you a number that you are to display on your table.

            1. re: littlej

              Had dinner at Fireworks July 4th. They don't take reservations for less than eight people so we were advised to show up by 6:00PM because that's when the place really starts filling up according to the guy that answered the phone. We walked in when they opened at 5:30PM. The place was packed by 6:00. When we left there was a 45 minute wait.

              My wife and I shared a bowl of the sopa de lima. Really good but a little heavy on the cilantro. I also got the steamed mussels which were good if a bit small. My brother-in-law opted for the fried calamari which he said was very good. My sister-in-law got the grilled asparagus special, also good.

              As for main courses everyone but me got a pizza. My wife got the "Blue Moon" which was topped with roasted butternut squash, sage pesto, roasted free range chicken and gorgonzola. It was good but I could have done without the squash. There was also a white clam which had fresh chopped clams, bacon, garlic, onion, fresh herbs and parmesan. The "meat" pizza consisted of roasted chicken, vermont italian sausage, bacon, salami, tomato sauce and mozzarella.

              My main was one of the specials. It was a good portion of rigatoni, sausage, broccoli rabe and green grapes. I was offered parmesan on the side. Excellent. The wine list was limited but very reasonably priced. Printed on wine bottles which were filled with drinking water they were categorized as "cheap', "decent" and "good" as noted in the first post of this thread. I got a kick out of the unpretentiousness of the idea. We got a bottle of Il Casale Montepulciano ("cheap") for the grand sum of $15.00, a great value, imo. They don't offer liquor but they have a few good beers. I had a Fireworks Pale Ale (by Otter Creek) and my bro-in-law went with a couple of Otter Creek Copper Ales.

              Service was friendly and efficient. Fireworks puts on a good show and I would recommend a visit to anyone looking for good food in a casual and laid back atmosphere.

              1. re: Jimmy Cantiello

                Great, thanks for the info. I've been wanting to try this place as it seems to have gotten the best reviews recently of anything in Brattleboro...

        2. For some silly reason, I keep thinking they open for dinner at 5pm and they don't. So, even though I've tried to eat here a few times, I kept forgetting that they open at 5:30pm and wasn't willing to wait.

          However, last weekend I did get a group together and we all met there at 5:30 for dinner. There were definitely some things I liked and want to go back and try it again. But some bad things also.

          First and most important is that it is not easily vegetarian friendly. Even the non-meat dishes, like the risotto and the mushrooms (in the pasta/pizza) are made with chicken broth. The vegetarians in the group ended up ordering salads and there was only 1 or 2 pizzas to choose from without any meat or broth used at all.

          The waiter didn't know what the four cheeses were in the Four Cheese Ravioli.

          The restaurant seems to be cutting costs already on the sopa de lima. Two posters mentioned white meat chicken, queso blanco cheese and cilantro, I didn't get any of those things. The soup was so incredibly tart, that all I tasted was lime. There were a few pieces of dark meat chicken and a rough chunk of avocado and a ton of tortilla chips. I could hardly get to the soup there were so many chips.

          The mushroom pizza with gorgonzola was delicious and thin crusted and crunchy, just the way I like it. Some of the pastas sounded really good as well. I'll try it again and see how it is. It has promise and there were some things done well - the salads, the pizzas. They have draft Stella and that's good.