RESTAURANT L | Boston
Pino Maffeo’s Italian family has always held cooking
and cuisine as a top priority, so it was no wonder that this East
Boston native felt a calling toward a culinary career. After graduating
from Newbury Culinary College in 1991, he worked at several restaurants
around the country learning the art of world cuisine from European
chefs. Interested in learning the business end of the restaurant,
Maffeo took a job as Task Force Chef for the Marriott Corporation.
In a year and a half of working with master chef Oliver Kroft, he
had opened several restaurants throughout the country.
In 1992 he drove cross-country to San Francisco. He trailed at
almost every restaurant in the city before settling at one of the
city’s early fusion restaurants, Café Katie. His next
position was opening a restaurant called Molhern and Shackern with
Laurence Vito who at the time was a spokesperson of Californian
cuisine. As Chef de Partie there, Maffeo became friends with a cook
who would later play a significant role in his life – Patricia
Yeo. After nine months at Molhern and Shackern, Maffeo was asked
to become Chef de Cuisine at San Francisco’s Inn at the Opera,
where he stayed for three years during which he and the chef received
“three-stars” from The San Francisco Chronicle.
After a phone call from his childhood friend Tony Susi in 1996,
Maffeo moved back to Boston to join him as Co-Executive Chef in
his new venture, Sage. The restaurant, located in the city’s
famous Italian haven, the North End, was instantly a critical success.
Shortly after the opening, a job opportunity opened up for Susi
and he left for San Francisco. Maffeo remained as Executive Chef
and for the next three years, he helped change the dining mentality
of the neighborhood, bringing a new standard of cooking to Boston’s
North End. Restaurant goers loved dishes such as Poached Foie
Gras in Sauternes with Prickly Pear Syrup and Braised Beef
Cheeks Maltagliati “Crazy Cut” Pasta. Maffeo was
even asked to address a class at the nearby Radcliffe on the restaurant’s
In October 1999, Maffeo received another phone call that this time
would bring him to Manhattan and alter his culinary career. Long-time
friend and colleague Patricia Yeo offered him the Chef de Cuisine
position at AZ. With Maffeo’s help, AZ ultimately earned three
stars from The New York Times, Crain’s New York Business,
and The New York Observer. Then, as Co-Executive Chef at
Yeo’s second restaurant venture, Pazo, Maffeo and Yeo developed
menus with Mediterranean influence. Early after Pazo’s opening
in August 2002, this culinary duo earned critical raves for their
inventive menus including another three stars from Crain’s
New York Business. Eric Asimov (The New York Times)
later praised Maffeo’s “unfettered approach,”
which makes Mediterranean cuisine appear “new and exciting,
full of wonderful ingredients and flavor combinations.”
In the autumn of 2003, Maffeo was tapped by Louis Boston’s
owner Debi Greenberg to help revamp her restaurant (formerly Café
Louis) at her acclaimed shopping destination on Newbury Street.
In January 2004, Restaurant L was born. Within a year, Restaurant
L became noted as one of Boston's brightest and most acclaimed new
restaurants. Here, Maffeo features clean, simple and inventive cuisine
with influences from Southeast Asia and Japan. In 2004, Esquire
named the restaurant one of the “Best New Restaurants”
of the year. In that same year, Maffeo and Restaurant L garnered
several media accolades including being named one of the top ten
new restaurants of the year by Travel & Leisure; one
of the “best new restaurants in the world” in Robb
Report’s “Best of the Best” issue; one of
Boston’s best new faces by The Boston Globe Magazine,
and he was also selected as one of Boston Magazine's top
"tastemakers." In August 2005, Boston Magazine
awarded Maffeo “Best New Chef: Up and Coming” in their
annual “Best of Boston” issue, and he has been most
recently named a 2006 Rising Star Chef by StarChefs.com. He has
made several television appearances including segments on CBS “The
Early Show,” The Food Network, and PBS’s “Simply
Ming.” Maffeo continues to wow critics and diners alike with
dishes such as Kobe Beef Wrapped Potato Spring Roll with Miso
Sauce; Dandelion & Ricotta Ravioli with Spring Peas and Morel
Mushrooms; Duck Milanese with Red Pepper, Scallions, Pineapple,
Cashews; Wok Seared Lobster, Spicy Thai Coconut Broth and, Tapioca
Pearls; and Applewood Grilled Market Beef, Crispy Potato,
and Four Different Salts.
AB: What is your favorite
question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
PM: Are you married? Do you
love to cook from your heart? You have to really love it. It’s
a lifestyle. You can feel it – see it in their eyes.
AB: What advice/tips do you
have for culinary students just getting started?
PM: For the people who really
love it, it’s a life-long dream. Be patient and know in your
heart. Don’t be afraid and don’t look back.
AB: Where do you see yourself
in 5 years? In 10 years?
PM: I want to be able to afford
to have a place where I could have the top talent, hang out, cook,
share ideas, and push the envelope.