This week’s blog post was inspired by my need to return a library book.
I had borrowed the book from my town’s library and then proceeded to lose it or so I thought. Sheepishly, I approached the circulation desk to confess my sin. I was told all would be forgiven and the library’s treasures would again be available to me if I simply paid a fee online.
Of course, about 22 seconds after I hit the pay button, I found the book. Argghhh. Let’s just forget about where I found it, shall we?
Turns out, when you find a library book that you lost and paid for, yet feel the need to return when it has been found (to restore your reputation of course), you must personally escort the book to it’s original owner. No free inter-library transportation allowed for these lost souls.
In the case of my book, it was owned by a library in a town about 30 minutes away from home. Not a big deal, but I did think I should somehow make use of the trip. Maybe there was a place nearby to scout for the blog? Miraculously, I found a newspaper clipping that I had been saving and found that in fact, there was such a place.
I decided to make a day of it. I would return the book and visit the place from the clipping and another new food shop I had heard about from my hairdresser, Mateo! It was just me, my camera and my notepad this time around.
My first stop was Bibi Bakery and Cafe in Westwood, Massachusetts…
Located just seconds from Route 128/95 (exit 16B), Bibi Cafe and Bakery opened in May of 2014. I had the extreme good fortune of meeting the owner, Fataneh Dowlatshahi while I was visiting. A native of Tehran, Iran, Fataneh was incredibly welcoming and I am very grateful to her for spending so much time with me and sharing her passion for food.
Fatenah came to the United States for graduate school thirty years ago and never left. She and her husband built a life in Westwood where she has run a daycare in her home for over twenty years. Her life’s dream was to own a cafe like those she enjoyed in Iran, and to share it with her adopted hometown. Her goal is to provide beautifully prepared, fresh foods in an intimate setting that feels like a home, or at least your favorite neighborhood cafe. Bibi is the name Fataneh called her great-grandmother.
Look at this woman – she is beautiful and clearly doing something she loves…
Bibi’s space is small but incredibly cheerful, adorned with bright colors, eclectic furniture and paintings done by Fataneh’s husband. The cases were full of pastries, individual quiche, quick breads, bars, cakes, cookies, and scones. Baguettes were perched on top of the cases as was a sample of Bibi’s famous carrot jam made simply with organic carrots, sugar and some lemon juice. Everything is made on the premises…
Bibi also offers freshly made sandwiches on house made ciabatta bread and has two daily soup specials. Coffee, roasted by a supplier in Rhode Island is served along with other hot and cold beverages.
It was hard to decide what I wanted to try, but I chose Nana’s bread first. The recipe came from Fataneh’s best friend’s grandmother whom they called Nana. The ingredients are simply flour, yeast, milk and oil. The top is studded with sesame seeds. Absolutely delicious and perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. It lasts days because of the milk and the oil. I am told it sells out quickly…
I also tried the Gaata which is based on a recipe from Fataneh’s Armenian great-grandmother. The dough is flour, yeast, eggs, sugar and sour cream. A combination of sugar and butter sweeten the interior of the bread. Another wonderful bite and a little goes a long way…
Bibi’s blueberry muffins might be the best I’ve tasted from a bakery. The balance between the tart blueberries and the sweetened batter was just perfect. Bibi’s pastry chef, Ambreen Hasan also adds just a hint of blueberry jam to the muffins which makes them especially tasty as does a generous topping of coarse sugar…
At this point during my visit, I was starting to feel like part of the family and Fataneh wanted to introduce me to Ambreen. It is clear that there is a lot of chemistry in the kitchen between these talented women. Ambreen received her formal training at the French Culinary Institute but she also happens to be a Chemical Engineer. She has worked extremely hard at perfecting the master recipes for Bibi which obviously shows.
Bibi only uses the highest quality ingredients according to another staff member, Michelle who bakes in the kitchen alongside Fataneh and Ambreen. You can taste the difference.
When I was getting ready to leave, I told the ladies that I felt I had just spent an hour in someone’s home thanks to the hospitality I received and which they showed to other customers who came and went. That is the objective as Fataneh hopes to make Bibi that friendly neighborhood place you want to keep coming back to visit.
Bibi is open daily. Check their website for specific hours. And do not forget to get a jar of the delicious carrot jam. Fataneh generously gave me one along with my cup of coffee (I purchased the rest). I have been enjoying the jam with my toast this week, but it would be a wonderful condiment for a cheese board as well! Look at that color…
Thank you, Fataneh for a wonderful visit. I will be back!
After a quick trip home to tend to the pup and avoid the lunch hour rush, I headed to Somerville, Massachusetts to visit Pepe Bocca, located on Highland Avenue in Davis Square.
Owned by John and Michelle Maione, Pepe Bocca (pepper-mouth) has been open for just three months. The Maiones took over the spot that Sessa’s Cold Cuts and Italian Specialities had occupied for nearly 35 years, a market I frequented when I attended culinary school in nearby Porter Square.
John is a graduate of Johnson & Wales and worked for the Four Seasons before entering the family business, La Campania restaurant in Waltham. John was the head chef at La Campania for nearly a decade and built the restaurant’s fine dining menu alongside his family. But it was time to go back to his roots and work on the rustic breads and foods that he loved. When Gioncarlo Sessa decided to retire, opportunity called and Pepe Bocca was born.
Walking into Pepe Bocca, the space has been expanded, cleared of its clutter and feels like a shop in Boston’s North End. Professional ovens have been added along with some table seating and a television for watching Italian football (soccer). Both John and Michelle were working, as they have been every day since the opening. Like Fataneh at Bibi’s, they couldn’t have been more welcoming and I appreciate the time they took to share their passion with me as well.
John arrives at 3:30 am to start the bread baking and uses a “Madre” or biga, rather than commercial yeast and uses the methods he learned from his father, uncle and grandmother. He bakes about 70 loaves of different varieties daily, using organic flours made not only with wheat, but also with spelt and farro. The breads are hand folded and I was able to get a shot of the dough being prepped and some of the loaves still available for purchase…
I took home a loaf of ciabatta bread that was honestly some of the best bread I have tasted. You can see it cut open in the picture below. I have been eating it all week long (pictured with the carrot jam above) and I will definitely go back for more.
Once the bread is finished, John turns his attention to “La Cucina” and prepares fresh pizzas, calzones, focaccia, Arancini (Arbrorio rice balls stuffed with mozzarella), lasagna, eggplant and other daily specialities…
How about a freshly filled cannoli? Check!
Fresh imported pine nuts, Bacala, sun dried tomatoes, fresh Ricotta, Scamorza, Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese or rinds for your soups and stews are all available at Pepe Bocca…
The refrigerator and freezer cases are filled with house made marinara, marinara with sausage and bolognese sauces as well as a wide variety of stuffed pastas made by John’s aunt. One pasta that caught my attention was a ravioli stuffed with braised short ribs. Sounds delicious, right?
The shelves are filled with imported pastas, olive oils, vinegars and other traditional Italian pantry items. Cookies and candies round out the offerings. And if you need a rolling pin, a ravioli stamp, a cannoli tube or a meat grinder, you can find those items here as well!
The deli counter offers a wide variety of antipasti, cheese, cold cuts, biscotti and freshly made sandwiches. Michelle wanted me to try their Panini with freshly sliced proscuitto (lots of it), mozzarella, tomato, basil and a fig-balsamic glaze. She used their freshly sliced “Rustic” bread made with spelt and farro flours…
Michelle, it was fabulous, although I ate it in two sittings! That’s a hearty sandwich!
I brought home an Arancini, some lasagna and eggplant to share with my husband and I thought it was all excellent. This is a shot of the food…
The shop was bustling when I was there so I’d like to thank the Maiones for receiving me and answering my many questions. Pepe Bocca is open every day except Monday. Once the nice weather finally arrives, there will be some outdoor seating in front of the store for those who would like to linger and enjoy their items on site, perhaps with an espresso.
Even though these two businesses are completely different, they are owned and managed by people who are passionate about what they are doing. Fataneh and the Maiones clearly want to share their love of food with anyone willing to step inside their four walls. I am so glad I did and hope you have a chance to support these young businesses sometime soon!
Do you know of a food business that I should scout for the blog? Please let me know in the comments below or send me an email!
See you next week!
One Year Ago: Summer Vegetable “Ceviche”