Citrio's seasonal approach caters to the takeout crowd
NEWTON HIGHLANDS - They may not be as comical as the Three Stooges or as musical as the Three Tenors, but the trio who recently opened Citrio Catering & Provisions Co. can certainly cook. They have 30 years of professional experience among them.
In mid-February, Jeffrey Fournier, whose restaurant 51 Lincoln is across the street, Eric Bogardus, most recently executive chef of Vox Populi, and Mark Stein, entrepreneur-turned-chef, opened a cafe, takeout market, and catering company here. The venture is housed in the former Ice Cream Works space at the corner of Hartford and Lincoln streets. You can eat lunch, buy prepared food for dinner, or have your next party catered with one of the three at the helm in your kitchen.
The name Citrio is a made-up word taken from citrus, which the entrepreneurs say represents the freshness they hope to convey. The chefs wear lime-green jackets, walls are painted in cheerful orange-mango, floors are slate, and through the open kitchen you can watch as whole chickens emerge from a vertical smoker, pasta sauces are stirred, and salads and sandwiches are assembled.
"Everything is made by us here," says Fournier, including the "chowda," which contains fresh New England quahogs. For sandwiches, you can order pulled pork on a soft bun, which comes with jalapeno cabbage slaw; house-smoked salmon with arugula and maple aioli; and something called a "Fat Tom," which boasts a pile of turkey with melted Swiss and hot peppers on a baguette. House-cured pickles and hand-cut sweet potato chips come on the plates. Grilled pizzas, a few pastas, and salads round out the menu.
Stein explains that the team wants to focus attention on what's growing in the region - something restaurant chefs routinely do. "In most lunch places, there's no sensitivity to seasonality," he says.
The friendship between Bogardus and Fournier began more than 10 years ago when both worked as line cooks at the former Pignoli restaurant. More recently, Fournier met Stein through a mutual friend. Also on staff are pastry chef Milissa Laurence, who also makes breads and pastries for 51 Lincoln (check out the homemade marshmallows and, when it's available, rich German chocolate cake), and sous chef Christopher Norcross, who worked for Fournier when he was at the Metropolitan Club. Norcross's blueberry jalapeno jam - a fruit spread with a potent kick - is perfect with smoked chicken or stuffed pork loin.
By late afternoon, hungry customers on their way home from work dash in for dinner to go. Choices include a pint of Bogardus's Bolognese sauce with pasta, slow-roasted beef, and an artichoke and grilled shrimp salad. There are more than 30 flavors of homemade ice cream and sorbet, frozen logs of cookie dough, and a tempting assortment of pastries. The partners are thinking of adding online ordering.
They intend to keep the catering side "very customized," Bogardus explains. For now, parties are small, typically 10- to 20-person events that feature a chef's tasting menu. That way, says Fournier, "the food can be really well done. We're not going to make cookie-cutter things."
Plans for Citrio were only in the works since last fall. In that short time, the three chefs launched the business, watched as the summer catering schedule started filling in, and are now waiting for warmer weather so they can open their outdoor patio.
The three are doing what they do best. Just don't ask them to sing.
Citrio Catering & Provisions Co., 2 Hartford St., Newton Highlands, 617-969-1234. citrioboston.com.