In her new pasta business headquarters, the enterprising chef looks to southern Italy and also rolls out her own wine label.
The mercury is dropping, the days are getting shorter, and sweater time is officially upon us – in other words, now is a great time to start filling your plate with portions of homemade pasta that stick to the ribs.
Good news! One of Boston’s best chefs has the place to do it: Bar Volpe, South Boston’s second restaurant in Top Chef All Stars favorite and James Beard Award winner Karen Akunowicz, which is expected to have a smooth opening this weekend.
For this eagerly awaited sequel to his first independent spot, Fox & the Knife, oriented towards northern Italy, Akunowicz turns to southern Italian cuisine. She also doubles the success she enjoyed with Fox Pasta, her brand of bagged bucatini, gallo crest, and more which now ships nationwide (and helped her delicious first restaurant win its latest award. Best of Boston).
Located a few doors down from Fox & the Knife at 170 W Broadway, Bar Volpe (meaning “fox” in Italian) will serve as Akunowicz’s new mothership. al dente noodles and shells and elbows, oh my god! In fact, the place has a small Italian market and dedicated pastificio behind glass, so guests can watch the flour-throwing team at work. This enclosed space has its own 10-seater table for private events, as well as a drop-in counter where anyone can have on-the-go pasta and sauces, like an iconic wild boar bolognese, to take home. .
Plus, they’ll now have the perfect wine pairing for all that pasta: Akunowicz has launched her own eponymous wine label, and she will debut with “Forlì Sangiovese 2019”, a brilliant Sangiovese-Merlot blend that she developed with the Italian winemaker Giovanna Madonie. Akunowicz’s affordable inaugural grapes ($ 10 / glass), what she calls her answer to table wine, adds to the insanity-level value list curated by wine director Kristie Weiss. Weiss has already helped stock the excellent Nathalie de Fenway’s cellar, one of the best places in town to have a drink.
Fresh pasta, bottled wine – these are just the latest ventures from the savvy business chef, who in recent years has successfully diversified her brand to encompass sponsorship deals (she recently put her seal of approval on the company Zephyr Kitchen Design Tool), cookbooks (she’s working on her second, slated for release in 2023), and more. (To be continued: a partnership with Williams Sonoma.)
In an ever-changing restaurant industry, especially after COVID, having your hands in many pans is a smart way to work for a chef. It’s also, says Akunowicz, a way to stay engaged and motivated.
“I think in all industries, in the changing world, diversification is really important. On a personal and creative level, it’s so much fun for me. I like it because it makes my brain work in a different way. It makes everything I do better.
Cooking is one area where Akunowicz never seeks inspiration, and Bar Volpe is no exception in this regard. Here, its open kitchen is anchored by a wood-fired grill to prepare dishes with roast chicken, porchetta, and flaming fish – expect more seafood here than at Fox & the Knife, Akunowicz said. As well as offering a mozzarella bar section with all kinds of spectacular cheeses, the menu will cover regional cuisines from the bottom half of the boot, all the way to Sicily, even incorporating Moroccan spices and other North African spices to make a nod to the history of the spice trade. Think: orrechiette with lamb sausage, Sardinian paella over a wood fire …
For a light bite and a drink – Negronis and classic Italian cocktails are in order – you can sneak into the 25-seat main bar, a former Airstream with an Art Deco marble facelift. The rest of the restaurant features floor-to-ceiling street-side windows, buttery banquettes, and moon-shaped light fixtures that strike your eye like a big pizza pie. (Note: there are no real pizzas here, but it doesn’t matter when there is it pizzetta bianca, flaky puff pastry stuffed with warm, melting Stracciatella and Provolone, cut into pieces and served on a pizza plate.)
Bar Volpe is the latest in a series of exciting new Italian restaurants from top chefs, following Mark Ladner’s Bar Enza and Will Gilson’s Geppetto, both in Cambridge. For her latest entry into Southie, Akunowicz says the key to standing out is simply to stay strong on your own two feet.
“Everything we do in restaurants, from design to any specific dish, is incredibly intentional because to me it’s personal,” Akunowicz says. “I can’t do anything that doesn’t feel incredibly personal to me. So yeah, the menu is completely different from Fox & the Knife, but I think if anyone likes Fox & the Knife, they would know it’s me. This is how I cook.
170 West Broadway, South Boston, barvolpe.com.