Concept: BOH Pasta
Chef: Ben McPherson
Known for: Batanga, Prohibition Supper Club, Krisp Bird & Batter
In Italian, “boh” is teenage slang, used the same way American teens might say “whatever.” It’s a phrase McPherson recalls from spending time in Naples, where his father and little sister once lived.
“I’d go visit and she and her friends said it all the time,” he laughs. “When it came time to name this concept, I was thinking of something else and she said, ‘No! Boh!’”
BOH is McPherson’s love letter to Italy. The chef, who’s spent a career in Houston making decidedly American and continental fare at places like Prohibition Supper Club and Krisp Bird & Batter, and has flirted with Latin cuisine over at Batanga, has always had a passion for Italian food. He was dazzled by the idea that simple ingredients like tomatoes, basil, cheeses, could create fireworks of flavor. He’s taking that same minimalist approach at BOH, where the menu specializes in pizzas and homemade pastas.
Behind the glass wall that separates BOH’s seating area from its cooking space, diners will be able to see McPherson and his team stretching and rolling dough on a gorgeous wood table the chef thinks will become the centerpiece of the restaurant. Being a part of Bravery means each chef is onstage as diners get to see them cook, as well as take orders and serve. BOH’s cuisne, McPherson thinks, is a natural for that kind of space.
“We’re making orecchiette by hand,” he says excitedly. “Rolling out these long ropes and shaping them with our thumbs. We’ll do campanelle, which is this cool, seashell-looking pasta.”
McPherson says his pasta selection is actually driven by the sauces he’s making, as each one grabs the sauce differently. The orecchiette, for example, arrives with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, arbol chili, anchovy sofrito and pecorino cheese. His spaghetti will have a classic San Marzano tomato sauce with basil, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.
And then, there are the pizzas. All are offered by the slice, and all are done in the al taglio style.
“Pizza al taglio is considered a healthier pizza in Italy,” he says. “The long fermentation makes the dough easier to disgust. When you eat it, you don’t get the heavy feeling like when eating lots of bread.”
He thinks that will be popular with diners, and the four pizzas on the current menu include favorites like a traditional Margherita with tomato, basil and olive oil; prosciutto crudo with prosciutto di Parma and heirloom tomatoes; and a pepperoni pizza with pepperoni cups, (a little pepperoni that curls up and forms cups that render the fat) oregano and parmigiana.
Growing up in Alabama, McPherson was surrounded by traditional southern cuisine, things like bacon green beans and cornbread. Mobile, where his family is from, is on the coast, so into the mix came shrimp and seafood. Then his father moved to Italy.
“We were outside Tuscany, and I remember he let me drink a glass of white wine,” McPherson says about one childhood visit. “And then, there was this pasta. I ate four bowls of it. Somehow, that’s when my life changed.”
He would go on to work in restaurants in Italy for seven years before coming back to the States. He is passionate about the Bayou City’s diverse cuisine and global flavors. That’s something he loves about Bravery, as though the space is a microcosm of Houston at large.
“It’s awesome,” he says about the space and being around fellow chefs. “There’s such a dynamic group here, and some great offerings.”