Posted on

The March Wrap Up

The raw bar at simjang on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, MA (Erb Photo for Mass Foodies)

As is typical of New England, March came in like a lion and out like a rhino with a host of key developments for the Central Mass food scene.

B.T.’s 26 hour smoked beef brisket paired with Wormtown Buddha Juice X2IPA

On March 28th, Drew Day was named Executive Chef of Flying Rhino on Shrewsbury Street as former Executive Chef Chris O’Harra announced his transition to Maddi’s Cookery and Taphouse, set to open on Water Street by early May in the space that previously housed The Perfect Game. Maddi’s will mark the second restaurant for Adam Hicks, who also owns Depot Street Tavern in Milford, which opened in August of 2014. O’Harra was recently awarded first prize in the people’s choice category at the Worcester’s Best Chef Competition.

While Day and O’Harra were parting kitchens this month, two other Central Mass chefs joined forces. Chef Rick Araujo of Civic Kitchen & Drink in Westborough teamed up with B.T.’s Smokehouse Director of Operations William Nemeroff of Sturbridge for a night of award winning barbecue. B.T.’s smoked beef brisket has built up a loyal following to the tune of over 120,000 pounds of hand selected, hand rubbed beef brisket sold last year. Araujo and Nemeroff looped themselves into captivating harmony for the evening with Wormtown Brewery along for the thrilling ride.

Bibimbap from Choose and Mix in Worcester, MA
Bibimbap from Choose and Mix in Worcester, MA

B.T.’s whet our appetites for barbeque and Choose & Mix swooped in for the assist. Contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores visited this Korean hot spot on East Mountain Street for “bulgolgi – thinly sliced beef tenderloin strips in flavorful Korean barbecue sauce – and galbi – Korean barbecue ribs.” She found the eatery welcoming, affordable, and loaded with flavor. Flores also visited Millbury’s new doughnut hotspot, Rocco’s, located at the former address of the Queen’s Cups. Members of the Astrella family have doughnuts “embedded in their DNA,” as evidenced by what Flores calls a frenzied social media buzz in addition to the long (but quickly moving) line out the door.

Contributor Jim Eber spent some time at simjang’s raw bar on Shrewsbury Street with Executive Chef Jared Forman whom he deemed, “a chef intimately connected to what he serves.” The two sampled sexy oysters, fat kid’s oysters, punchy oysters, crisp beginner oysters, and coppery oysters. If Eber’s praise is any indication, he’ll be back at the deep rock maple bar very soon for a Jang and a dozen more.

Stack of Doughnuts from Rocco's Doughnut Company in Millbury, MA
Stack of Doughnuts from Rocco’s Doughnut Company in Millbury, MA

Next door at Volturno, owner Greg Califano Jr. kept busy teaching pasta classes in his private function space as well as the Neapolitan pizzeria fresh outpost in Framingham. Volturno’s new location maintains the rustic charm of its counterpart, offering the added intimacy of a smaller space. Guests still have a view of the wood burning oven, and we were pleased to find that the “2 for 1” deal on Mondays and Tuesdays is graciously honored in Framingham as it is in Worcester. Pasta classes are offered monthly at each location and no two are ever the same.

In bleaker news, both Broth and The Hangover Pub shuttered their doors after former owner Chris Slavinskas pleaded guilty to charges of making a false statement to federal investigators relating to the ongoing Kevin Perry saga. Perry’s indictment resulted in the shutdown of The Usual, Blackstone Tap, and The Chameleon.

Posted on

Pasta-Making Makes the Grade at Volturno Framingham

Five years ago, Greg Califano Jr. interviewed me for my first restaurant job. I was looking to pay off my college loans and I made the mistake of thinking that working for him at Volturno was the sort of thing one “does on the side” for a bit of extra cash. At the time, I didn’t realize that the service industry is something you quite literally eat, sleep, and breathe. I didn’t get the job.

I should note that I did go on to spend four invaluable years learning about hospitality from a different set of rockstar restaurateurs who took a chance on my naivete, but the interview with Califano taught me something. He was my first introduction to a passionate network of curious chefs thriving right under my nose.

Our interview had extended far too long for a candidate who, quite frankly, never stood a chance of landing the job. I had pressed Califano to relive every detail of rehabbing the old Buick dealership where Volturno took up residence. I wanted to hear what it was like to eat pizza in Naples and to feed wood into a 900-degree oven.

I knew it was time to leave when Califano finally said, “Okay, who’s interviewing who here?”

This week, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when I arrived for a pasta making workshop at Volturno’s new outpost in Framingham to find the venerable owner would be teaching our class himself. Califano’s enthusiasm had not waned since he opened Volturno in 2013; if anything, I found that it had vaulted to entirely new heights.

Owner Greg Califano leads Volturno of Framingham’s latest pasta making class.

He called us over to a long wooden table and balled up a lump of canary yellow dough in his hands before shaping it into a map of Italy to point out Bologna – the city where he worked for free, learning to make pasta in little restaurants without signs on their front doors. Califano launched into his craft like a maestro, captivating the crowd, noodles flying through the air.

There were a few things he thought we should know as recreational pasta makers. First, using too much flour only leads to disaster; egg-based pasta like Garganelli begs for a lattice of gluten structured by careful folds in the dough. Second, your water should taste like the sea, and at home, it doesn’t hurt to throw a hand full of semolina into the boiling pot. Finally, there are specific sauces for specific pasta shapes. Make no mistake about it.

“In Italy, sauce doesn’t exist. It’s considered a condiment,” Califano explained, “The star of the show is the pasta.”

After his animated demonstration, Califano sent us back to our tables to practice rolling out the dough and cutting flat squares that we wrapped on sticks and nudged over wooden ridges, resulting in flawless tubes of Garganelli.

Luckily, Califano did the rest of the cooking for us. Our glasses remained inexplicably full throughout the evening. (That must be why they call it “Super” Tuscan.) And plates of polpette and arancini appeared family style, along with a sweet gem salad dolled out in exquisite ceramic dishes. True to his word, the Garganelli was indeed the star of Califano’s show.

Califano’s standards have remained unwavering in Worcester and the same holds true of his Framingham location. The new restaurant maintains the rustic charm of its counterpart, offering the added intimacy of a smaller space. Guests still have a view of the wood-burning oven, and the 2 for 1 deal on Mondays and Tuesdays is graciously honored in Framingham as it is in Worcester. Pasta classes are offered monthly at each location and no two are ever the same.

I’d like to think that Califano had me pegged as more of an observer than a participant from the beginning. Maybe he knew I’d be a food writer before I did. Nevertheless, it felt good to get in on the action and finally make something of myself at Volturno. The proof is in the Garganelli.