When broad-smiling, Endicott College graduate Michael Magner, owner of Prides Pizza in Beverly Farms, needed a chef for his new restaurant, he posted an ad on Craig’s List. The one response that interested him, from Paolo Laboa, re-fashioned Magner’s venture from a “bar and grill” to an Italian “osteria,” and may soon place culinary stars on Rantoul Street in Beverly.
Paolo Laboa’s resume looked something like this: winner of the 2008 World Pesto Championship in Genoa, Italy, where the basil grows on sunny hillsides fed with breezes off the Ligurian Sea, and where Laboa’s family has been putting a pestle to basil and pignoli for at least 400 years.
Until late 2011, Laboa had been executive chef of Farina, the San Francisco restaurant declared by Mark Bittman in The New York Times as one of “my go-to places for regional Italian fare when I’m in San Francisco.” Gwyneth Paltrow lists Farina on her blog.
Laboa showed up for his Magner interview holding a copy of “Farina, Old World New: Family Meals from the Heart of Genoa,” an exquisitely photographed book celebrating the California restaurant and Laboa’s authentic Ligurian recipes.
Mark Bittman describes Farina’s cuisine like this: “foccacia di Recco, golden, poofy, cheese-stuffed dough made in a hill-town southeast of Genoa known for little else. Pansotti, triangular pasta filled with chard, nettles or spinach, depending on the month, and served with a pesto of walnuts. Mandilli, handkerchiefs of pasta served with classic pesto. Raviolini with shrimp, butter and sage,” and then adds, “in fact I have not had a pasta dish here that wasn’t perfectly cooked and well worth eating.”
Well, guess what’s on the menu at Pride’s Osteria? I recently pulled apart the foccacia di Recco, the tenderest wafer of hot pizza, dripping its interior of hot, melting cheese. We had it topped with prosciutto di Parma at first, and a second order bare; the former was divine, but the latter was “divine-er,” the delicately singed dough and cheese singing without distraction.