• Main Street Hyannis – Pizza Barbone

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    One of a series highlighting living life well on Main Street

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    Some restaurants boast preparing with fresh, local ingredients.  Pizza Barbone takes that commitment to the ultimate degree.

    Owner Chef Jason O’Toole transported 20,000 pounds of soil by crane to the roof above the Puritan Cape Cod building on Main Street, constructed irrigation piping and now cultivates his own vegetables and herbs.

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    “Lots of chefs say ‘farm to table.’ We literally farm right here above the restaurant,” the Falmouth native says. O’Toole and a hired gardener harvest a unique spectrum of unusual to exotic vegetables that are featured daily on Barbone’s Neopolitan pizzas and in special salads.

    The farm fresh concept is complemented by a Stefano Ferrara wood-fired oven, one of only 30 in the entire country. Handmade from rock and ash from Mt. Vesuvius, the 6,000 pound oven sailed from Naples, Italy to Pizza Barbone’s 390 Main Street entrance.

    Its 1,000-degree flame can bake an individual thin-crusted Neopolitan pizza in about 90 seconds, with just the right char around its sides and base.

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    O’Toole is fastidious not only about his vegetables and oven, but also the dough he uses exclusively – high-quality Caputo 00 (double zero) flour that is widely used in Italy.

    He uses San Marzano tomatoes and meats from Modena, Bologna, Parma and Rome, all locations he has visited personally to meet the farmers and providers. Pastas are handmade with a rolling pin.

    “Everything is fresh, nothing is processed or dried,” he says.

    O’Toole’s favorite pizzas include pistachio pesto, white clam, forest mushroom and one featured pork butt cooked sous vide. That entails cooking the meat in a water bath at a controlled temperature that breaks it down before it is shredded with a roasted garlic puree and charred onions.

    As much as he enjoys experimenting with ingredients, O’Toole’s standby is Margherita, the classic that showcases the thin crisp crust that is the hallmark of Italian pizza and emphasizes the purity of tomatoes.

     

    How the Penns and O’Toole met

    Jim, left, and Rick Penn

    The story of Pizza Barbone, however,  goes far beyond its menu featuring O’Toole’s inventive pizzas to a vision shared by the chef and his landlord, Puritan Cape Cod, the venerable men’s and women’s clothing store that has been a Main Street magnet for generations.

    Rick and Jim Penn, Puritan’s third-generation owners, have welcomed O’Toole into a grand plan – transforming their emporium into a dynamic destination location across from the JFK Hyannis Museum and Hyannis Library.

    It’s not just clothing anymore. It’s skiing and tennis.  And its four unique eateries, two of which can be entered directly from the elegant store.

     

    A desination location 

    From the men’s department, customers can walk directly into the Naked Oyster for lunch, dinner or maybe just a drink at the bar. From the women’s department, an expansive entry leads to the Rendezvous Café, which serves creative, freshly made crêpes and Panini sandwiches, as well as organic, local, fair trade coffee.

    With Wi-Fi, it has become a popular meeting place for locals as well as visitors. It often hosts events ranging from Egyptian Dance to Argentine Tango to open mic sessions and art shows.

    The fourth eatery specializes in desserts. Little Miss Cupcake is a mother-daughter enterprise resplendently decorated in pastels.

    All four establishments have outdoor tables that create a dynamic block-long communal energy.

    Complementing all this is Solstice Day Spa, which occupies the basement level of the Puritan Cape Cod building. An inside stairway and separate elevator is adjacent to the clothing store – and after hours, spa clients can enter directly from Main Street.

     

     

    A vision for Main Street

    It all represents the Penn’s commitment not only to vitalizing Main Street, but also to redefining the retail experience. “We call it dine, dress and decompress,” says Rick Penn.

    “We had to be realistic about the future,” he explained. “Today, there are so many ways for people to shop, including online. We had to create a future where we are selling more than clothes, we are selling an experience. “

    The Penns belong to a forum of other high-end clothing retailers who meet regularly across the country to share best practices and innovations. They saw counterparts in places like Boulder, Colorado transform their stores into destinations.

    “You have to be innovative today. People go to the movies now and expect to sit in cushy chairs and maybe even have wine and dinner while watching the show,” says Rick.

    “People aren’t going to necessarily come to a store just to shop, then get back in the car and leave,” says Jim Penn.

    “Our goal is to create an environment where people can have a glass of wine at the Naked Oyster while shopping, or coffee at the Rendezvous Café, then head to their appointment at Solstice and finish off with an early dinner at Barbone and a cupcake or two for dessert.”

    DSCN0154Tying this “destination” philosophy together is an entire new façade of the Puritan building that also is home to many second-floor business tenants.  Its design unifies what had been a more eclectic collection of facades that go back generations to when stores like Woolworth’s dotted Main Street.

    To this vision entered O’Toole two years ago when he and his wife Ally decided it was time to expand their culinary dream from a mobile oven that they drove to local farmers’ markets and private events.

    “We decided to look for a real location and a broker connected us with the Penns,” he recounted. “Our visions coincided, and the Penns became far more than landlords. They are cheerleaders and mentors. We saw landlords who wanted to seed the future of Main Street. They not only saw what we wanted to do, but didn’t flinch when we proposed to start our farm literally on their roof.”

    DSCN0128On this sunny July day, the partnership was evident in the glee the two Penns had taking Luxx to the roof for a personal tour by O’Toole of the many vegetable and herb beds bursting with summer fare, including carrots and beets that would appear on a salad one hour later at Pizza Barbone.

    The Penns look not only for excellent cuisine, but also their tenants commitment to the same outstanding service and customer experience that has helped Puritan thrive through three generations and the many changing faces of downtown Hyannis.

    “You can buy stuff anywhere, anytime,” says Jim Penn. “That’s why we are so excited to see ingredients growing right on our premises. That is part of the experience. We see the restaurants’ clients as our clients.”

    Says O’Toole. “We hit it off immediately with the Penns. “I not only shopped at Puritan, but I bought my wedding suit there.

     

    Concierge service

    “I watched how the Penns today and their father before them greet their customers on the floor, the entire personal experience of knowing and working with the owners. That’s the way we want Pizza Barbone to grow and thrive.”

    O’Toole designed the restaurant to be open and intimate, with guests able to watch their pizzas being baked from every table, along with a “pizza bar” overlooking the oven where they can sip wine or drink beer and have a clear view of the kitchen.”

    While O’Toole’s menu offers many choices of 8-inch and 12-inch individual pizzas, including daily specials inspired by what has been harvested on the roof. He also encourages guests to “customize” their pizzas.

    “I can see every guest while I cook,” says O’Toole. “I want them to feel special, and that including coming out from behind the bar to say hi. Just like they do at Puritan.”

    Says Jim Penn: “We see that passion in Jason, and it is infectious.”

     

    Roots with a mobile pizza oven

    O’Toole, who has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, had been a personal chef on a succession of yachts that were based in Boston and traveled to Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas in the winter.

    After he got married, he and his wife, decided to move back to the Cape.

    “We started our mobile business with two ovens and a van,” recalls O’Toole. “We soon discovered the opportunities of private catering as far as the Boston suburbs. We speciailzed in upscale Neapolitan hand-crafted pizzas, appetizers and salads.”

    Even with the success of his Main Street location, O’Toole continues to employ his two mobile vans, primarily private parties.

    “The mobile ovens nourish our commitment to concierge service,” he explains. “That also includes encouraging patrons at the restaurant to imagine their own ingredients and hosting pizza parties where guests help make their own pizzas side by side with the chef .”

     

    Pizza Barbone is located at 390 Main Street, Hyannis
    508-957-2377
    pizzabarbone.com

    It is open Sunday-Thursday from 11 am to 9 pm and Friday & Saturday to 10 pm

    It serves beer and wine.

    Jason can be reached at jason@pizzabarbone.com

    Menu

    For directions

    For catering

     

    Puritan also has locations in Chatham, Mashpee and Falmouth, and also owns Vineyard Vines in Mashpee Common.

    July 20, 2014