Bar del Corso in Beacon Hill offers local, seasonal and traditional Italian ingredients on its wood-fired pizzas and Italian dishes, complemented by an all-Italian wine list.
In Aimee Bender’s novel “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,” the main character, Rose, is disturbed to find she can literally taste the feelings of others in the food they prepare. Rose would have little to fear at Bar del Corso. Every bite speaks of the love and care Jerry Corso and his team lavish on the pizzas and small plates at this homespun Beacon Hill pizzeria and cucina.
Occupy a seat at the far end of the bar — opposite the stove, fryer and grill, within sight of the blue-tile wood-fired pizza oven — and see for yourself. Corso stretches dough for his splendid Neopolitan-style pies, while line cooks construct salads, sauté greens, steam shellfish and grill sausages. This is everyday food, Italian-style: ingredients at their peak, straightforward preparations, unfussy plates, finished with a liberal splash of extra virgin olive oil. It is all simply delicious.
Original hardwood floors gleam in the spare, tidy space that was once the Beacon Pub. Abutting the service credenza along the back wall, a butcher-block table provides parking for tools of the trade: a sausage- stuffing machine, a gelato maker and a KitchenAid mixer.
Pale-green pantry shelves hold wine, spirits and glassware. The bar stocks a range of aperitivi. Moretti Blonde joins several local brews on tap. The wine list, like the menu, is short, well-priced and all Italian.
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You show up when you are hungry; if necessary, you put your name on a list at the door. You’ll want a pizza. Their thin crusts rise to form a ridge of hills and valleys lightly touched with char. It’s a supple crust, salty but not intrusively so, and floppy in the middle when sauced, but not soggy.
Salami, coppa, braising greens and even clams adorn these pies. None are overburdened as items are judiciously applied. On the Puttanesca, for example, you get a little anchovy, a bit of rapini, some hot peppers and fresh mozzarella in every bite.
In a recent salute to autumn, tiny chanterelles joined slices of speck (it’s like prosciutto but smoked) and crumbled Quartirolo, a sharp, aromatic cheese from Lombardia. An additional small plate or two makes it a meal; like the pizza, everything is easily divisible.
Suppli al telefono are irresistible snacks. These fried risotto balls with a heart of mozzarella are named so because when you crack them open, the strings of molten cheese resemble telephone lines.
Baccala mantecato — a baked mash of salt cod, potato, garlic and parmigiano — makes a potent spread for grilled bread cut from dense Pugliese loaves, shaped just like the rotund pizza oven they are baked in.
The grilled, garlic-rubbed bread makes wonderful bruschetta, the current escort for Burrata, a cream-filled mozzarella-style cheese that I enjoyed with late-summer heirloom tomatoes. More recent “from the garden” options include Bloomsdale spinach, all the better for a quick fling in the pan with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and plump sultanas; and baby turnips nestled among their greens. The turnips lacked much evidence of anchovy and hot pepper, but given their inherent horseradish-y bite, there was personality aplenty in the bowl.
Check the chalkboard for specials. That’s where I discovered the spicy fennel sausage in bed with saucy (in every sense of the word) pepperonata: meltingly soft, sweet red peppers bolstered with capers and a splash of vinegar. If you spy cranberry beans with “cuore de tonno,” have it. Fine shavings of cured tuna heart, salted and pressed like bottarga (tuna roe), gives the warm, creamy beans a salty, umami quality.
End your meal with a not-so-sweet dessert like polenta cake embedded with the fruit of the moment (recently plum) or a dollop of ripe robiola cheese paired with eucalyptus honey and more of that excellent bread.
Watching the cooks has its downside: regretting the road not taken. Arugula salad with pear, pecorino and roasted sunchokes looked so good. So did a crostino being assembled as I paid the bill on my last visit: braised garbanzos and dandelion greens ladled from a big clay pot over bruschetta and topped with a gleaming grilled sardine. I’ll be back for that.
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