If there is a dish that embodies the ethos of Bar Volpe, South Boston’s new southern Italian pasta restaurant and boutique from chef and restaurateur Karen Akunowicz, it’s culurgiones, Sardinian stuffed pasta with intricate stitching. It’s all about simplicity on the surface – four plump pockets of dough rest in tomato sauce – but a lot of effort underneath, and it’s such a region-specific dish that you’re unlikely to find it. elsewhere around Boston.
That doesn’t mean everything on the menu strictly adheres to the southern Italian repertoire. While Akunowicz is “passionate” (as she puts it)—or “obsessive” (as she says others say)—about certain food traditions, she’s also “not as loyal” to others. others, so the menu plays with classic dishes as well as its own pirouettes inspired by the flavors of the region.
Bar Volpe is the sequel to Fox & the Knife, which focuses on northern Italian cuisine, particularly the Emilia-Romagna region. The Volpe bar gives Akunowicz a chance to serve food that doesn’t fit the Fox & the Knife concept, and the larger space also allows for the expansion of fresh pasta sales she started during the pandemic. Really, her dream of opening a pasta shop fueled the opening of the restaurant: a shop on its own would be hard to make financially viable, but it works if it’s attached to a restaurant, she says, and so Bar Volpe is both. Just over a decade ago, Akunowicz was living in Modena, Italy, waking up at 3 a.m. and learning to make pasta with “little old ladies” in a room filled with plywood-covered trestles; now she sells pasta nationwide through Goldbelly, with a Williams-Sonoma partnership coming soon.
Here’s a look at some of the dishes on Bar Volpe’s opening menu.
When Akunowicz traveled to Naples, a group of women befriended her in a square, curious to know why she was there alone. When she explained that she was a cook and was there to eat pizza, they took her to various pizzerias, and that hospitality is the driving force behind what she hopes to achieve at Bar Volpe. “I mean, ‘Come hang out. Come eat with us. Let us show you this thing.
While that memory of eating pizza with strangers in Naples is an undercurrent at Bar Volpe, the restaurant doesn’t have a pizza oven, so there’s no Neapolitan pizza on the menu, but Akunowicz and his team wanted to do Something in the pizza business that would make sense for Bar Volpe. They landed on a pizzetta made from puff pastry stuffed with cheese and topped with nigella seeds. “Armenian string cheese contains nigella seeds,” says Akunowicz, “and I like those flavors together. For some reason, the flavors of cheese constantly reminded me of this.
The pizzetta is “super flaky, super crispy, and great for sharing,” says Akunowicz, noting that Bar Volpe can accommodate larger parties better than its older sibling, and that dishes meant to be shared like these are ” the dishes that the restaurant was built.
When Akunowicz worked in the pasta shop in Modena, the shop almost exclusively produced tortellini, but the workers also showed him how to make different shapes of pasta, such as Sardinian culurgiones. “I think it’s just such a beautiful and fun shape, and I hope when people see them and eat them, they’ll know that – at the risk of sounding really cheesy – a lot of love, a lot of effort went into It’s very simple, but there’s a lot of effort, technique and skill involved.
Bar Volpe also serves several other pastas, including bucatini pomodoro with guanciale and spaghetti al limone with Jonas crab.
“Pervasive, isn’t it? Akunowicz said. “You can’t go anywhere in Sicily without having fritti misti.” While developing the dish, she kept coming back to a Rhode Island-style squid with spicy spiciness, “and it eventually transformed” using bomba Calabrese, a spicy pepper spread, balanced with a refreshing basil aioli. “It’s a fun representation of this dish,” she says, noting that it’s one of her favorite dishes on the menu.
One of the restaurant’s antipasti, it joins dishes like farro arancini; porchetta with salsa verde; and grilled artichokes.
Akunowicz inherited a bunch of paella pans with the restaurant. Thinking about casseroles, the wood-fired grill, and her “strange obsession” for Sardinian pasta fregola (small grilled dumplings usually made from semolina flour), she decided to make a Sardinian-inspired paella, full of fruit seafood and artichokes, cooked over a wood fire. “It’s something we’ve been working on for a very long time and I love it,” she says. “I’m thrilled to be able to use fregola in this way, where it’s kind of the star of the show, not an afterthought.”
“I love chicken,” says Akunowicz. At Bar Volpe, it’s brined in buttermilk overnight, then stuffed with black truffle mayonnaise before firming up and drying in the walk-in closet for a day. It’s served with kale – “I always want to eat it all with braised, bubbling greens,” says Akunowicz.
“We wanted the chicken to be simple; we wanted the flavors all to really shine. It’s really using the wood-fired grill in a way that makes a lot of sense, letting those beautiful ingredients shine.
Like Fox & the Knife, Bar Volpe has an exciting collection of amari, and there are a few desserts to pair with an after-dinner drink, including brioche gelato (essentially an Italian ice cream sandwich as you might find some in Sicily) and an alcoholic affogato float.
Bar Volpe is currently open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., though Akunowicz hopes to expand hours in the future; the cozy bar/market area could possibly be open for coffee service on weekends. Follow on Instagram for updates and make reservations here.