Our Favorite Pizza: Baba Louie’s Arrives in Pittsfield
Paul Masiero at his computerized, wood-fired pizza oven in Pittsfield
If you were asked to name a restaurant that epitomizes the Rural Intelligence region, there could be no better answer than Baba Louie’s, which opened in Great Barrington more than a decade ago, opened a second location in Hudson, NY, five years ago, and opened its third restaurant in Pittsfield two weeks ago. Serving creative salads and imaginatively topped pizzas on sourdough crusts made by Berkshire Mountain Bakery and cooked to order in wood-fired ovens, Baba Louie’s is deliciously democratic—sophisticated, fresh, real food that’s accessible to all.
Owners Eileen and Paul Masiero (his brothers own Guido’s Fresh Marketplace) have created a family-friendly restaurant where childless adults feel at home, too. The new Pittsfield location, which is around the corner from the Beacon Cinema, seems tailor-made for its gentrifying neighborhood. “Pizza and movies go together!” says Paul. And so, too, pizza and kids. Paul is such a devoted family guy that when he installed his fancy, Italian-made, computerized wood-burning oven, he put ceramic handprints of his children right over the opening where he slides the pizzas in and out. And each child has a pizza named after him or her: There’s the Isabella Pizzarella (roasted sweet potatoes, roasted parsnips, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, fresh mozzarella and shaved fennel drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar and parmesan); Cole’s Creation (fresh mozzarella, red onions, fresh garlic, plum tomatoes topped with organic arugula, feta and balsamic vinaigrette); and the Hannah Joe (fresh mozzarella, ricotta, red onions, shrimp, pineapple, prosciutto, green chili sauce, topped with dried coconut.)
When the Masieros bought Baba Louie’s ten years ago, it was a great concept that was not fulfilling its potential. “We changed the pizza toppings and the salads,” says Paul, and, in fact, many Baba Louie’s fans think the salads such as Dawn’s Delight (gorgonzola, pears, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts served on a bed of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette) are as remarkable as the pizzas. But it’s more than the food that made Baba Louie’s take off in Great Barrington when the Masieros took over. “I paid a lot of attention to the service. I was there all the time which made a difference to the customers and to the staff,” says Paul, who followed his brothers to the Berkshires after attending culinary school and apprenticing at the fabled Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia. He admits he was nervous about whether he could duplicate his success in Hudson. “It was a struggle to make it work,” he allows. “It takes a lot of being present, knowing your staff and who you can trust. I now have great managers and chefs in Great Barrington and Hudson so I can be focused here.”
And the Pittsfield operation requires a lot of attention. Since opening two weeks ago, there have been lines out the door. “We’re selling 2,000 pizzas a week,” says Masiero, who took over the cavernous Pittsfield Brew Works space on Depot Street. “We have 120 seats right now, and one day we’ll open up the other room where we can have 80 more.” You can look into the kitchen through a big window in the dining room and watch him make pizzas and stoke the fire. “Sometimes I’m out front and sometimes I’m in the kitchen because I can make the pizzas much faster than someone who has to look up the ingredients each time. I know them by heart. I have been making them for ten years.” Isn’t it added pressure to have the kitchen on display? “I wanted to show off my pizza oven!” he says cheerfully. “And it gives me the right to go into the kitchen and tell the guys to clean up because the customers can see everything.”
Masiero is very focused on his customers’ overall experience. “I have a full liquor license but we only serve wine and beer because this is a family restaurant,” he explains. “I didn’t want to be in the bar business. I didn’t want people ordering shots. If I wanted to own a saloon, I would have.” He attributes Baba Louie’s popularity to his not cutting corners when it comes to ingredients. “My customers are willing to pay more for good food. They are very conscientious about what they eat.” He thinks the new place has the just right look and vibe for downtown Pittsfield. “It came out almost elegant,” he says, chuckling. “It doesn’t look or feel like a pizza joint.”
34 Depot Street, Pittsfield; 413.499. 2400
Lunch Daily: 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner Daily: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.