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Berkshires pizza place was made to order

WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- A red storefront with pumpkin trim has a window filled with giant terra-cotta pots. The paper menu's hand-lettered title reads "The Village Oven" and features an exuberant line drawing that looks a bit like a dove. "It's garlic with wings," says Tom Tenuta cheerfully. "I thought it would look good on the T-shirts."

Neither Tenuta nor his partner in this venture, Billy Boudreau, expected to put down roots in this tiny Berkshire village with a two-block downtown and no traffic light. Tenuta explains how he happened to come here: He was hired by the nearby Hancock Shaker Village, which "needed someone to smoke a pig." And he stayed, bringing his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, and inviting Boudreau to join him. The two worked together at a golf club in Stockbridge for three years, waiting for a shot at their own place. That chance came when they opened the Village Oven in May.

Tenuta, 34, and Boudreau (when asked his age, he responds, "Are you crazy?") cook everything themselves, dividing the baking and cooking and producing handmade pizzas and pastas. "I like the banality and monotony of baking," says Boudreau. "Tom is very linear, very organized. He can handle serious pressure more than I can. I'm the big dreamer." Boudreau adds, not entirely in jest, that moving to the country appealed to "this dream I have of driving my own team of oxen. You can't have oxen in the city."

In Boston, Tenuta had worked at the Charles Hotel, Mirabelle, and other places, Boudreau at Mirabelle and the Bostonian.

Blanching 10 pounds of broccoli rabe to the hum of the exhaust system, Tenuta looks alert despite a typical four hours of sleep. Both chefs work all the time. But this is what they wanted. "We sat down and figured out what town to open in, what people needed," says Tenuta. What was missing in the Tanglewood area, they decided, was a casual, affordable, kid-friendly place with high-quality food.

Tenuta and Boudreau credit the town of West Stockbridge and its friendly small-business owners and local construction crews for help in getting them on their feet. Everyone is anxious to see them succeed. "We had an order for six large pizzas before we opened," says Tenuta.

Every day now, glistening calzones, fat stromboli, and panini fly out of the ovens. Hardly one month into their venture, Tenuta says, the 30-seat restaurant has served some 150 to 300 customers on weekends (in a town of 1,500). There's often a line out the door.

As Tenuta puts the finishing touches on a dinner special, he tucks a crisp green asparagus spear into a roll of veal. "That's local asparagus," he notes, smiling.

"Really local," he adds. "It's from my garden."

T. SUSAN CHANGThe Village Oven is at 30 Main St., West Stockbridge, 413-232-7269.

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