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Phantom Gourmet: Authentic Italian At Prides Osteria In Beverly

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BEVERLY – Sheeting and filling. Folding and forming. Cutting, cooking and serving. Pasta just doesn’t get any fresher than at Prides Osteria.

Located in Beverly, Prides Osteria is one of the most authentic Italian restaurants in the country, and it all starts with the pasta made by Chef Paolo Laboa. He spent most of his life in Genoa, Italy and now brings the Northern Italian dishes of his homeland to the North Shore.

Every day Paolo and his team craft gorgeous pastas on a big table right in the dining room. It’s usually done just before service, but sometimes they do it even when the restaurant is open, which gives customers a front row seat to freshness.

“People like [it] because they see the pasta we make here go in the kitchen. Five minutes, six minutes after, it’s on the table,” he explained in his thick Italian accent.

“The pasta’s as fresh as it gets,” said owner Michael Magner. “Paolo’s pasta station is right in the middle of the dining room. Paolo loves to interact with the customers and come in and talk. I mean, really, you’re center stage, and people enjoy it.”

Believe it or not, Magner actually found chef Paolo on Craigslist, and it didn’t take long for the chef’s unpretentious and authentic approach to food to become the heart and soul of the restaurant.

“His passion is exciting to everybody else. I mean, there wouldn’t be one person that you could interview in this restaurant that wouldn’t say they’re here in part because of Paolo.”

Of course pastas are Paolo’s first passion, like Pansotti served with a creamy walnut pesto, or rich Agnolotti filled with braised pork, beef and sausage. But the one that keeps customers coming back is the Mandilli, featuring toothsome pasta sheets tossed with Genovese style pesto.

“When you mangia your pasta, it’s very thin; it’s very authentic,” Chef Paolo said. “Stays very al dente, very good.”

The dish that keeps customers coming back is the Mandilli tossed with Genovese style pesto. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

The dish that keeps customers coming back is the Mandilli tossed with Genovese style pesto. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

As great as the pasta may be, what really makes this dish shine is Paolo’s homemade pesto. It’s made from a four hundred-year-old recipe that perfectly balances pine nuts, garlic, and sea salt, with basil, pecorino, parmigiano reggiano, and olive oil.

“The key to a great pesto is the balance. Not too much pine nuts. Not too much oil, or cheese, or basil,” the chef explained.

When it all comes together, it’s silky smooth and vibrantly green. “For me it’s beautiful, because it reminds me of Genoa, reminds me of where I’m from. I have this memory of when I was a kid – mangia my pesto with the bread. I think it’s perfect.”

The menu at Prides Osteria changes daily, and while a few of the most popular dishes are always available, Chef Paolo is always looking to surprise customers with something new.

“Paolo will wake up every day and make the menu based on how he’s feeling, what the weather is, what he thinks people would enjoy,” Magner said.

One day you might find medallions of Sea Bass with russet potato coulis. Another day there will be a gorgeous stuffed game hen served on a bed of risotto. It will be a great day if you show up when they’re serving their all natural, grass fed, pan roasted ribeye, dusted with rosemary, sage and juniper berries.

The pan roasted ribeye, dusted with rosemary, sage and juniper berries. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

The pan roasted ribeye, dusted with rosemary, sage and juniper berries. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“Once I had one of these ribeyes, I will never go back. It is absolutely unbelievable,” Magner stated. “The meat, you can taste the difference. You can taste the quality, and I would never eat a steak any other way.”

Appetizers here are also a bit life-changing, like the perfect Caprese with heirloom tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella; a thin crust pizzata with olives, capers, and anchovy; and a lightly fried pillow of focaccia that’s draped with prosciutto di Parma, and topped with creamy burrata cheese.

“It’s the most amazing appetizer I’ve ever tasted in my life. You’re going to bite into that and you’re going to get the lightly fried dough, with the creaminess of the burrata, and the saltiness of the prosciutto, and that’s going to come together like something that you’ve never had before in your life,” Magner described. “You’re gonna crave it again and again.”

After dinner treats receive the same attention and care as everything else at Prides. There’s the silky smooth panna cotta, homemade grapefruit or basil-cello, and wonderful cannoli with crispy shells that are made in house.

“The really special thing to me is doing the shell from scratch, doing the cream from scratch. It’s different and it’s really special, and definitely our most popular dessert.”

With all the effort that goes into everything they make, it’s easy to see why Prides Osteria can get very busy, and customers have quickly learned that this place is far from the typical Italian restaurant.

“People have certain expectations of what an Italian restaurant is. They think Chicken Parmesan, and meatballs, and that kind of thing, and that’s absolutely not what we are,” Magner explained. “We feel that we are one of the pioneers here of Italian cuisine in America, because we don’t compromise at anything. We like to do what’s authentic and what’s typical. If you won’t find it in Italy, you won’t find it at Prides Osteria.”

You can find Prides Osteria at 240 Rantoul Street in Beverly at online at pridesosteria.com.

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

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