Folino’s finds a home at Finney Crossing

Man checks pizza in wood-fired pizza oven.

Folino’s General Manager Bobby Seaman bakes a pie in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven Tuesday. Folino’s opened its third location last month at Finney Crossing. OBSERVER PHOTO BY JASON STARR

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Folino’s’ original plan to open a pizzeria at Finney Crossing predates the pandemic. The restaurant was slated to share a standalone building with a new Fiddlehead Brewery outlet inside the growing Williston neighborhood. 

Those plans were abandoned about two years ago when uncertainty in the early months of the pandemic spooked the restaurant industry. That building remains unbuilt, and Fiddlehead — which is co-located with the original Folino’s Wood Fired Pizza in Shelburne — has abandoned plans for a Williston location. 

But Folino’s’ commitment to Finney Crossing has not wavered, and late last month it opened a 50-seat restaurant (with 50 additional seats awaiting warmer weather on an outdoor patio) on the western edge of the building anchored by Healthy Living. It’s currently operating a dine-in and takeout dinner service daily, 4-8 p.m. with lunch Friday through Sunday opening at noon. 

General Manager Bobby Seaman expects those hours to increase along with an expanded lunch menu as more staff is hired. 

“Once we saw all the building happening and this community growing, we said ‘we should be there,’ one, for hopefully great business and two, because it’s a thriving community that’s not Burlington. It’s its own thing.”

Folino’s staffer Tanya Randall works the takeout counter at Folino’s in Finney Crossing on Tuesday. The restaurant opened for dine-in and takeout service in December. OBSERVER PHOTO BY JASON STARR

The restaurant has a long dining room overlooking the patio. Central to the kitchen is the wood-fired oven, serving nearly two dozen varieties of pizzas. Salads and wings are also on the menu.

With limited hours, the restaurant has had a sort of soft opening. Word of mouth is building, and it helps to have the Hilton Home2 Suites hotel next door, which specializes in extended stays.

“Word is getting out,” Seaman said. “We’d love to be open longer for lunch and later, but staffing-wise, everyone understands.”

Hiring experienced wood-fired pizza-makers and prep cooks has proven more difficult than finding part-time front-of-house staff, Seaman said.

“There is a lot of competition (for employees) because there are openings everywhere,” he said. “I’ve interviewed people who have said, ‘this is my second interview of the day and I have two more’ … I remember when someone would come in and you could hire them on the spot and they’d say ‘great, I can work tomorrow.’”

This is Folino’s’ third location; it operates a pizzeria in downtown Burlington as well. The Williston location is the only one to have its own liquor license. Seaman, who has worked at all three spots, recently relocated to a home in Williston Village.