Osteria Nino is a fantastic new addition to the Burlington community. It typifies true Italian cuisine, showcasing dishes meant to be simple. As culinary director Chris Boswell says, “It’s about subtracting as many ingredients as you can so you get the core and purity of those flavors.” Over pasta, Boswell and executive chef Walace Benica share some thoughts:
Heather Cathcart: When you two sit down together to decompress, what is your go-to food?
Chris Boswell: The tonnarelli alla gricia is the best: with the little bits of guanciale, hot pepper flakes, and Pecorino—it’s a perfect salty balance of cured pork jowl and cheese.
Walace Benica: I would have to say the cacio e pepe. It is a nice, rich pasta, simple and satisfying, with the Pecorino Romano cheese and spiciness from cracked pepper.
HC: You had the good fortune of spending time at Berkeley, California’s famed Chez Panisse. What’s the best piece of advice you received from culinary pioneer Alice Waters?
CB: The lesson that I took away from my time with Alice at Chez Panisse was to stop at nothing to secure the best product, and when you think you have found the best, keep searching. When you go to a market in Italy, there are the little grandmas who are nudging you out of the way. They, too, want to secure the best product for their table!
HC: Where can you be found on your day off?
CB: I am at a baseball game, watching baseball, or listening to baseball. If I am home cooking dinner, a game is always on. If I am at the game, I am having a hotdog.
WB: Other restaurants. I am a true foodie, and if there is a new thing coming around, then I want to be there. I am always around food. I bring my kids as well, as I want to expose them to new cuisines and tastes.
HC: Which dish on the menu best represents “cucina Italiana?”
CB: The pork or chicken saltimbocca, the way it’s done in Rome. It’s a lighter version with a leaf of sage, a slice of crunchy, browned-up prosciutto, a wedge of lemon, and spinach. It’s so simple, clean, light, and flavorful. The guests keep coming back for it.
WB: For a lighter dish, the baked goat cheese salad—the mixture of texture and flavor complements perfectly.
HC: Where do you go for fresh, locally sourced ingredients?
CB: Our greens come from Lettuce Be Local—the owner, Lynn Stromberg, goes directly to the farms and brings the freshest products to us. Sea to Table provides an online community where we can see which boat at what port hauled what products on any given day. Our beef is from Andy Carbone. He raises amazing beef. Andy refuses to compromise.
WB: The scallops are 100 percent New Bedford, the clams are from Ipswich, and of course Maine lobsters. Tonight, we have Georges Bank sole to offer.
HC: If you were not in the food industry, what else might you do?
CB: I would work on the set of Saturday Night Live.
WB: General construction. I love it.
HC: What is your libation of choice at the end of a long day?
CB: A good cold glass of Verdicchio.
WB: A nice cold Allagash White.