Where to Da LaPosta in Newtonville.
Why For wood-fired pizza from Mario LaPosta, once the chef at Babbo in the Seaport.
The backstory LaPosta came of age in central Connecticut, a pizza fan in an Italian family. He apprenticed in Italy and ultimately worked at Babbo before it shuttered in 2019, amid owner Mario Batali’s legal woes. Now, LaPosta has a chance to make an independent name for himself, in the old Cook space.
“I want [customers] to feel this could be their neighborhood place, that this could be somewhere they could come in two, three, four times a week and get pizza, get healthy appetizers that are vegetable-focused, get homemade bread, pasta, entrees — where customers can feel they have multiple different dining experiences,” he says. “It’s not just a pizza place.”
As someone who entered the restaurant industry during a time when ego-driven, big personalities ruled (and often refused substitutions or special requests), he wants to be flexible and open-minded for guests.
“I came up in the restaurant industry in this culture where it was kind of my way or the highway. And, you know, a few years back, I realized, ‘Man, people want to eat the way they want to eat.’ Yes, it’s about the experience you give them in your food. But it’s about them, not about you,” he says.
What to eat: There are several varieties of thin, chewy pie, but quattro formaggi is LaPosta’s favorite, which he says he’ll never yank from the menu.
This is something you don’t see often made right,” he says. It has creamy buffalo mozzarella, parmesan, pecorino, Emmental — “a really stinky Swiss cheese”— and firm, spicy mountain gorgonzola.
“I think we make it in a way where the cheese isn’t overpowering. It’s not like, ‘Oh, my God, there’s so much cheese in this pizza; I can’t eat it!’ It’s the perfect balance of all the cheeses,” he says.
His dough blend was developed with Utah’s Central Milling using an organic whole-wheat flour, naturally leavened — no commercial yeast.
“Once I started using sourdough, man, I [couldn’t] go back. There’s something about the taste. It’s all about flavor,” he says.
His starter also uses fermented local grapes, crushed in cheesecloth.
“When you eat my pizza, you can actually taste that fermented grape,” he says. (It’s true.)
An appetizer of house-made ricotta comes from a family recipe taught to his parents by a fellow passenger on a flight home to the United States from Italy.
“My parents had this old couple they realized didn’t have a ride home. The limo they’d rented fell through, so my parents gave them a ride back to Connecticut. A couple weeks later, this 80-year-old Sicilian man came over with a basket of fresh ricotta to thank them,” he says.
LaPosta memorized his recipe: creamy, light yet dense, served with Sardinian honey with orange zest.
“It’s like comfort food, street food,” he says.
There are plenty of vegetable-oriented appetizers, too, as promised, from wood-roasted squash with brown butter and balsamic to roasted beets and pistachios and artichokes with garlic and mint. Suppli, a meat-free variation of arancini, are light and crunchy on the outside, with soft little nubs of rice still visible throughout. A few appetizers could easily make a meal, though there are also a handful of pasta dishes — squid ink linguine with manila clams and white wine, sausage cavatelli — and chicken parmesan.
What to drink: Bourbon with fig reduction; a blood-orange Negroni; local beer; and a largely Italian wine list.
The takeaway: A comforting, upscale yet unfussy bet for both lunch and dinner, plus an elevated option for pizza takeout when you crave more than a gloopy slice.
825 Washington St., Newton. 617-964-2665, www.dalaposta.com