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Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Italian infusion

Chef brings know-how cultivated on coast to new downtown restaurant

Armando Paniagua checks on a pizza at Genovese, an Italian restaurant that opened last month at 941 Mass., in the former location of Mass. Street Deli. Paniagua, who worked for many years as a chef in California, now plays that role at Genovese, which he also co-owns. "I love food," he says. "I love making people happy."

Armando Paniagua checks on a pizza at Genovese, an Italian restaurant that opened last month at 941 Mass., in the former location of Mass. Street Deli. Paniagua, who worked for many years as a chef in California, now plays that role at Genovese, which he also co-owns. "I love food," he says. "I love making people happy."

June 27, 2007

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Armando Paniagua realizes he's going against the grain.

He's been working at restaurants in California for 17 years, most recently as chef at a Rose Pistola in San Francisco - a much-lauded restaurant in a city known for its cuisine.

Armando Paniagua checks on a pizza at Genovese, an Italian restaurant that opened last month at 941 Mass., in the former location of Mass. Street Deli. Paniagua, who worked for many years as a chef in California, now plays that role at Genovese, which he also co-owns. "I love food," he says. "I love making people happy."

Armando Paniagua checks on a pizza at Genovese, an Italian restaurant that opened last month at 941 Mass., in the former location of Mass. Street Deli. Paniagua, who worked for many years as a chef in California, now plays that role at Genovese, which he also co-owns. "I love food," he says. "I love making people happy."

Armando Paniagua has worked in California restaurants for 17 years and now is chef and co-owner at Genovese, an Italian restaurant that opened last month at 941 Mass., in the former location of Mass. Street Deli.

Armando Paniagua has worked in California restaurants for 17 years and now is chef and co-owner at Genovese, an Italian restaurant that opened last month at 941 Mass., in the former location of Mass. Street Deli.

So it might be understandable that his colleagues in California were a bit confused when he announced he was moving to Lawrence.

"Usually people move from the Midwest to California," Paniagua says. "I had friends and the owner of my restaurant react with, 'Why? Why the Midwest?' And I'd say, 'You guys just don't know it.'"

Paniagua is bringing his California training and experience to downtown Lawrence as chef and co-owner at Genovese, an Italian restaurant that opened last month at 941 Mass., in the former location of Mass. Street Deli.

It's the latest offering by restaurateurs Subarna Bhattachan and Alejandro Lule, who also own Zen Zero, and La Parrilla.

Paniagua, who is Lule's brother, is excited to bring his style of cooking to a city he thinks has an appreciation for good food.

Genovese's kitchen

Armando Paniagua, the chef at Genovese, shows how he prepares a few of his dishes. Enlarge video

"I love food," he says. "I love making people happy. My mom used to cook for me, and I loved what she did. I loved sitting down and enjoying it - it's such a good feeling. I pay attention. If I see (customers) take a bite and smile, it's like, 'Oh, yes!'"

Simple food

Paniagua, a 36-year-old native of Mexico, worked at a Mexican restaurant in California when he moved there in 1990. He worked his way up through the food industry, eventually moving to Italian cuisine.

"I liked the simplicity of the Italian food," he says. "All of my dishes have no more than five ingredients. Most of them just have about three ingredients."

Rose Pistola, like Genovese, focuses on the food of Liguria, a region of northern Italy. Paniagua, who has gone to Liguria twice each of the past five years, says food of the region tends to be simple, with light sauces, to highlight the rich wines of the area.

That concept appealed to Bhattachan, who says he's heard requests for an authentic Italian restaurant.

"It's the cooking of Italy today," Bhattachan says. "Most 'Italian' cooking here (in the United States) is Italian-American cooking - what the immigrants cook - with heavy pastas and sauces."

Different market

Genovese's menu has both fresh-made and dry pasta dishes, most of which follow that theme of light sauces. Simple, thin-crust pizzas also are available.

Meals come with onion focaccia bread (the recipe came from one of Paniagua's excursions to a small Italian village) and antipasti vegetables.

The main difference between the lunch and dinner menus - in addition to a few appetizer changes - is paninis are offered at lunch, and heavier entrees are offered at dinner. Those include a marinated half-chicken, lamb chops and ribeye.

"We're lucky and fortunate to have him," Bhattachan says of Paniagua. "I had to remind him of the customer base here, that he would need to tone it down just a little bit. We have to be realistic about our population base."

Paniagua says that means offering a traditional linguine with meatballs and tomato sauce. It also means cooking pasta beyond al dente.

One advantage of being in Lawrence over San Francisco, Paniagua says, is being the only restaurant in town focusing on the food of Northern Italy.

"I think it's totally different," he says. "In California, you can go and find any type of restaurant. There's a lot of competition."

There's ever-increasing restaurant competition here in Lawrence, too. Just two doors down is Ingredient, which opened earlier this month.

But Paniagua is confident his concept will work, if only because of the focus on authentic cooking and importing ingredients from Italy.

"If you have something originally from the town it was made in," he says, "people are really going to enjoy it."

Comments

Bassetlover 7 years, 5 months ago

We ate there two weeks ago for dinner. By far, one of the best restaurant meals we've eaten in Lawrence in years. Fabulous presentation, stellar service, and the food was by far the main star. We will go back again, and again! It is great to have a restaurant of this caliber in Lawrence. Reasonable prices, too!

Scott Tichenor 7 years, 5 months ago

I hope they don't "tone it down" a bit. If someone wants limp pasta let them go to to Applebee's and order their spaghetti. We went just after they opened. The wine selection was superb. They need some work in the kitchen but I'm hoping and betting these guys will get it right. Some of the dishes were spectacular, some were bland, and they acknowledged they're working to get it right. I'm all for supporting them with more visits vs. having another chain/cookie cutter option move in that sends all of their profits out of town.

bugmenot 7 years, 5 months ago

this restaurant is great. we went there on June 6th, the food was delicious and the service was fabulous. superb.

Crossfire 7 years, 5 months ago

Friendly relaxed good place with good stuff to eat.

anotherdayinparadise 7 years, 5 months ago

Please, Please, Please do not try to tone it down and cater to what you believe the local population wants, I know several people, myself included, who will not eat Italian in Lawrence because that is what the other subpar Italian restaurants in town offer. Kinda like the B.S. ads about taking your big Italian family to Olive Garden, my Italian family wouldn't set foot in there. Stop the overcooking of pasta now!

Linda Endicott 7 years, 5 months ago

I prefer pasta al dente.

If you cook it as long as some people want to, it feels and tastes like mush.

rockchalk77 7 years, 5 months ago

Throw me into the group of people that don't want it "toned down." My mother's side of the family is of northern Italian descent, and we NEVER ate out at Italian restaurants growing up. When I got to college I realized why.

No more mushy pasta!!!

helix 7 years, 5 months ago

I echo all the sentiments posted previously. This is a great restaurant. I also appreciate being able to finally visit that beautiful building and actually enjoy the food.

Sigmund 7 years, 5 months ago

From what I heard Genovese reminds of Teller's when it first opened years ago. Anyone remember the name of Teller's first head chef? Anyway, can't wait to try it!

Soap 7 years, 5 months ago

Among the best wine selection in Lawrence and very reasonable prices for the quality of food and service.. Love the free marinated olives and vegetables.. Yum!!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

I would say do not tone it down. These folks know how to run a business. Thanks for bringing some italian to town...

Sigmund 7 years, 5 months ago

You can bet there was a "market study" and "cost analysis" done, it just wasn't paid for by the taxpayers. It may have been little more than "back of the envelope" and not signed by a Phd. (who has never actually run a business) but by someone much more likely to succeed, the private investor putting up their own money, hoping for obscene profits and avoiding losses.

I know merrill and his PlaceMaker buddies had their heart set on a grocery store, and that parking in that area is at a premium all the time, especially during the sewer upgrade. Who cares if the Bozo Business Czar thinks that "restaurants are overbuilt downtown", and they don't pay their servers a "living wage", health insurance and in local Boog dollars? Given Bhattachan's and Lule's previous successes at actually doing things (instead of being expert in nay saying and criticizing others) I think Genovese is going to have a nice long run in that location.

OnlyTheOne 7 years, 5 months ago

Another commercial posing as a news article.

chocolateplease 7 years, 5 months ago

We've been to Italy and really prefer their northern Italian food to any "Italian" food we've ever found locally. We'll definately try this restaurant. I hope it's al dente, and I hope it's authentic. The freshest, seasonal cooking is what we hope for. Good luck on the business.

Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 5 months ago

OnlyTheOne wrote "Another commercial posing as a news article."

Nonsense. It's a human interest piece, describing an interesting initiative undertaken by interesting people. It's valid journalism.

A "commercial" would read something like "the best Italian restaurant in town" or "discriminating Lawrencians choose this restaurant over all others."

coneflower 7 years, 5 months ago

Please do not midwesternize the fare - not even a tiny bit.

unklemonkey 7 years, 5 months ago

Wonderful food. I've had their ravioli twice now.

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