IN THE KITCHEN Greg Califano’s passion for preparing wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizzas comes straight from the source. In 2009, he and his wife visited Italy, and “I was kind of amazed by the wood-fired pizza concept. In Italy, that’s fast food,” Califano said. “Everything was so simple but so delicious. I thought it was really beautiful to take such an old-world technique and use it in modern times. I wanted to go to Italy, learn how to do it and bring it back to Massachusetts so everyone could experience why I was so passionate about it.”
So return to Italy he did, studying under a chef whose family has been making pizzas for 100 years. The Shrewsbury resident then took his learnings and opened Volturno — named for a river that runs through the region of southwestern Italy of which Naples is the capital — in Worcester in 2013. The second location opened in Framingham in late September.
THE LOCALE Califano converted a real estate office on Edgell Road just off Route 9 west into a sleek 100-seat restaurant with bar. “I wanted to do something local and family-oriented, with more of a small mom-and-pop vibe. I thought people in Framingham would appreciate that,” Califano said. The restaurant’s visibility and proximity to Framingham State University and Jack’s Abby (whose brews are incorporated into a bar menu that has 20 beers on tap, as well as affordable Italian wines and cocktails), are further plusses, he said.
ON THE MENU To prepare the restaurant’s signature 12-inch pizzas, the kitchen uses a wood-burning oven imported from Italy that can hold five pizzas at a time and operates at a temperature as high as 900 degrees. The kitchen’s goal, according to Califano, is to get a pizza into the oven and then onto the plate within 90 seconds. What denotes a finished pie? A light, airy crust with “black blisters” of char imparted by the wood-firing process, Califano said.
On the menu, there’s a pizza for nearly every taste. We sampled burrata ($18), the indulgent, namesake round of cream-filled mozzarella placed squarely in the middle of the pie, nestled among a generous tangle of fresh arugula, radicchio and taggiasca olives, and drizzled with basil oil. We were also drawn to the vongole ($17), strewn with briny, freshly shucked littleneck clams and crispy prosciutto atop a garlicky mozzarella base; a whip of cloud-like, lemon-infused ricotta is the fanciful final touch.
“The thing about Italian cooking is, it’s regional — wherever you are, it’s a different type of cooking,” Califano said. “We use that same approach. We’re in Massachusetts, so we use things that are great here. You’ll see a lot of clams and oysters on our menu. It represents New England better.”
Other pizza temptations include the capocolla ($18) with spicy sausage, caponata paste, honey, hazelnuts and mozzarella; and the bianca ($17), which plops a fried egg atop a bed of mozzarella, ricotta, garlic confit, and caramelized onions.
Volturno’s offerings extend well beyond the wood-fired pies. All of the pastas (except for the gluten-free varieties) are prepared in-house on an 8-foot-long table in the dining room. There’s a tagliatelle bolognese ($18), with beef, pork, veal, and buffalo combined into a hearty ragu with whipped ricotta. Another popular dish is pappardelle verde ($21), wider noodles with green parsley specks tossed with rock shrimp and guanciale. Chicken, salmon, and braised short rib dishes round out the entrees.
The menu changes frequently and seasonally. “We try to keep to the traditions passed on from generation to generation in Italy,” Califano said. At the same time, “We see what guests like, then tailor the menu toward that.”
Volturno is at 1 Edgell Road in Framingham, 508-875-7105, www.volturnopizza.com. Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m.Rachel Lebeaux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.