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Phantom Gourmet: Pastoral In Boston’s Fort Point Neighborhood

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BOSTON - Boston’s hottest restaurant neighborhood just got a little hotter, thanks to the 900 degree wood fired oven cranking out perfect Neapolitan pizzas at Pastoral.

New to Fort Point, Pastoral is a fun, high energy spot where Chef-Owner Todd Winer and his team create authentic Neapolitan pizzas and deliciously rustic Italian dishes. Here, everything is focused around the oven.

“We have a huge wood fired Neapolitan oven, and then all of our food is kind of peasant-rustic style, and everything touches or licks some aspect of fire during the cooking process,” said Winer. “Simple, relatable, great handmade food.”

The oven itself is a real show stopper. It was built in Italy and can cook 77 pizzas in just 15 minutes.

“It’s a huge bright red oven sitting in the middle of the kitchen, and that represents that kind of old world style of cooking where everyone met in the center of town; they baked the bread, gathered together as a community; and we’re trying to bring that feeling back ,where everyone breaks bread and eats and has a social environment around food again.”

Every pizza at Pastoral is made according to strict old world standards, right down to the ingredients.

“Double zero flour, salt, yeast, and water. We make our own mozzarella every day: 45 pounds. We make our own tomato sauce every day: we crush it. Everything’s fresh. So we’re doing classic Neapolitan style pizzas, no if ands or buts.”

And there’s nothing more authentic than Pastoral’s Margherita pizza, a simply perfect combination of dough, sauce, cheese, and basil, that cooks in just ninety seconds, thanks to that blazing hot oven.

“Once you go in you have a couple seconds, let it set, it starts to puff up,” described Winer. “You want to evenly cook around the sides, and you want to get nice spotting. We’re holding it up to the top of the oven to get it nice and bubbly and hot. Margherita pizza in 90 seconds.”

The Margherita may be simplicity at its best, but if you’re into toppings, there are plenty of options: like the duck sausage pizza with mushrooms and taleggio; the chicken meatball with rabe leaves; and the clam pizza with pancetta and pesto.

“It’s bitter, salt, sweet, crispy from the bacon, smoky from the pancetta. It’s definitely a different pizza.”

But no pizza is more different than their eye-popping combination of lemon, mozzarella, jalapeño, arugula, and thin pieces of dried Japanese tuna known as bonito flakes, that shockingly shake and shimmy atop the pizza.

“Well you have the bonito flakes that are dancing with the heat coming off the pizza, and people look at it and people look at it as if they’ve never seen anything like that before in their life. You’re either freaked out or you love it,” Winer laughed.

Pastoral has plenty more on the menu than just pizza. Appetizers include oven roasted chicken wings with roasted garlic and lemon, and golden fried olives stuffed with sausage and fontina.

The best way to start your meal here is with an order of Wood Fired Knots. Rather than the standard garlic knot you might find elsewhere, these are oversized, and overstuffed with the good stuff.

“We take the pizza dough and we stuff them with mozzarella, roasted garlic, some have olives, some have sausage, some have anchovies. And we make a little dumpling or turnover, and we roast it in the oven, and then we serve it in a big pool of extra virgin olive oil and shaved parmesan.”

For entrees, there’s hearty housemade rigatoni Bolognese, light and fluffy ricotta dumplings with pistachios and mortadella, gorgeous roast chicken that’s impossibly juicy, and a beautiful shellfish pot bursting with ocean’s bounty.

“The lobster sits up in the pot and the clams come out, and the scallops are sitting on top, and there’s a big fennel stalk coming out of it. It’s a pretty cool presentation.”

If there’s any room left for dessert, the Gelato with salted caramel sauce is a good choice. Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookies are even better, because like many great recipes, they were actually created by accident.

“It’s my daughter’s recipe. Good friend of ours gave us a chocolate chip cookie recipe. My daughter messed up the recipe – added buttermilk into the recipe – and hence our buttermilk chocolate chip cookies.”

With an open kitchen that’s always full of activity, and a welcoming dining room with a rustic feel, Pastoral’s atmosphere is always full of energy – especially at lunch time, when local office workers line up at the restaurant’s grab-and-go counter for personal sized pizzas, pepperoni calzones, and sandwiches stuffed with gourmet ingredients like pulled veal and shaved white mushrooms.

“We do these sandwiches called Puccia, and they’re Italian pocket bread. So every sandwich, we take pizza dough and we push it out, goes in the oven and puffs up like pita bread. Cut it open while it’s hot, and stuff it. It’s kind of an Italian wrap.”

It’s simple food, with great ingredients, served in a friendly and inviting space, which is exactly what Todd wants Pastoral to be.

“This is my passion, my love: simple peasant style food, fire. I think food needs to come back to simplicity, and get back to that breaking bread and being around a table with friends, and this allows us to do that. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Pastoral is at 345 Congress Street in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood or online at pastoralfortpoint.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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