When people reminisce about Biba, Lydia Shire's brilliant and wild long-defunct dining room overlooking the Public Gardens, they talk about dishes like the lobster pizza and the seafood arepas and the offal.
I get nostalgic about the bread basket: the carb equivalent of a vase of exotic flowers that included leggy grissini; plush focaccia dressed with pungent toppers; bubbly, charred naan; a rustic loaf that was familiar in its form (springy-soft interior, crusty exterior) but not its flavor (deeply sour or full of nuts or seeds or fruit); and some variety of crisp flatbread that curved like an undulating wave. It was certainly meant as a prelude of things to come, and might be the most dazzling first impression of a meal I've ever had.
Shire's post-Biba projects have never measured up to her flagship—I'm still hoping this rumor about her son, Alex Pinada, reopening Biba pans out—but fortunately some of her around-the-world breads have come back to life on the menu at Scampo, her Italian restaurant in Beacon Hill's Liberty Hotel.
There's a dramatically high-arching crisp slathered with melting cheese and tomato sauce called Elephant Ear Walking ($9)—likely a current iteration of that wave-like bread I remember from Biba—but the Ciccio ($12) is nicer to eat. It's a two-layer disk of flaky bread cut into wedges. The edges crunch and the center oozes a combination of fontina, Robiola, Parmesan, and ricotta salata cheeses mixed with shallots that's at once milky-rich, salty, and sweet and very stretchy. In other words, it might be the best cheesy bread you've ever had.
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Senior Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.