Top Chef contestant, 2018 James Beard Award winner, and Fox & the Knife chef/owner Karen Akunowicz is doubling down in Southie. She’s opening a new southern Italian restaurant and market called Bar Volpe, where Backyard Betty’s used to be (170 West Broadway). Bar Volpe will be just steps away from Fox & The Knife, but it’ll spotlight more seafood and vegetables. It’ll also feature a wood-fire grill and pastificio (live pasta-making) space, which will make items for the restaurant as well as Fox Pasta to-go items.
Akunowicz, a U Mass and Cambridge School of Culinary Arts grad, opened Fox & the Knife in 2018 to rave reviews. She signed the lease to Bar Volpe during the pandemic, and it’s scheduled to open by fall 2021, bringing together a vision she’s had for a long time. She couldn’t be more excited. “Every new project, every new dish, every new day teaches me more about being a business owner, being a chef and who I am as a person. We only grow if we keep evolving,” she explains.
Below, learn more about her inspirations for the new venture, what the restaurant will look like, and the menu item she’s most excited about.
You’ve discussed your love of Boston—why Southie specifically?
When I found the space for Fox & the Knife, I knew immediately that it was the perfect place for the Enoteca. I couldn’t have imagined how amazing and welcoming the community of South Boston would be. From our neighbors at Social Wines, who have been our biggest cheerleaders since day one, to folks in the neighborhood who have lived there for 40 years and have been coming in since the first week we opened, and all of our friends at the neighborhood association. I knew that I wanted to stay in this community, and continue to serve our friends and neighbors the best way we can.
You’ve talked about opening a southern version to your northern Italian food offering. Why has this been a particular dream of yours?
Although I lived in the north of Italy, I’ve traveled a great deal [in] the south. Some of the best food that I’ve eaten I found walking down the streets of Naples, or on the beach in Sicily. And while dividing the cuisine into north and south is a bit rudimentary, I try my best to highlight the regionality of each dish. I want to share and celebrate these dishes. I’m headed to Puglia and Basilicata next June, and can’t wait!
Sneak peak of menu item you’re most excited about?
What does the pastificio space look like?
The market space is the jewel of the restaurant. It has a six seat wine bar, a display case for pastas, and wood shelving for wine. There’s a marble bar top, and some beautiful lighting.
How is Bar Volpe informed by Fox & the Knife and previous culinary experiences?
Bar Volpe carries the same ethos as Fox & the Knife. I stay as true as I can to the art of pasta-making and have great respect for the food and the regions that I am drawing inspiration from. I just approach it with the lens of living in Boston in 2021, and a slightly modern approach.
What made you decide to devote precious time to this new endeavor?
I think much like having a baby, there’s no “good time” to open a restaurant. When I found the space for Bar Volpe, I could see the restaurant that I was envisioning—complete with a market to buy fresh pasta, enjoy a glass of wine or take home cheese and olive oil. I could see all of the parties and weddings that will happen there someday. It was a leap of faith to sign a lease in the pandemic, but one I’m glad I took.
Congratulations! FYI, my Mother, whose maiden name was Volpe grew up at 452 West Broadway. My Grandfather, John Volpe, emigrated from Gallicho, Potenza, Italy in the early 1900’s, and eventually bought 3 buildings on West Broadway: 452, 454 and 456. The buildings were sold in the late 1970’s. The area is so different now. My Grandfather owned and operated a machine shop in one of the buildings.