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.