Big band

Snarky Puppy arrives at Capitol Center

Jazz fusion collective Snarky Puppy is hot on the heels of winning its fifth Grammy, for the double album Empire Central. Bass player and primary composer Michael League spoke with the Hippo by phone from Minnesota, as a tour that stops in Concord on April 12 kicked off. League discussed moving to Catalonia, Spain, in 2020, the nature of his ever-changing band and its influences, and what all that Grammy love really means.

What led the decision to relocate to Spain?

I was looking to focus more on production rather than playing live, and I had gone through a lot of drama with recording studios in New York; there was always an issue in the spaces I was in… I was just like, I want to have my own studio in my own house, where I can bring artists to me, a place that I enjoy living that’s calm and tranquil … half of my family is Greek, so I always felt really at home in the Mediterranean … it’s one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

Has the evolution of technology helped your creative process?

Everyone’s using technology, my bass plugs into an amp, that’s technology, but I wouldn’t say that we focus on being revolutionary or cutting edge with it. At the risk of sounding like an old kerfuffle, I think that we’re very analog. We’re very about getting in the room together and playing, and seeing what happens from the beginning … playing live is the essence of Snarky Puppy. Our thing is not making slick videos; we play music together, we’re like a family, and the chemistry between the members is what makes the music so special, I think.

What are your influences?

Oh my god, I listen to a lot of music, like everybody in the band does. I mean, I listen to a lot of music from different parts of the world, but I mean Snarky Puppy above all has been greatly influenced by Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Steely Dan, yeah sure, Tower of Power, you know and Parliament; Jaco Pastorius. I feel like a lot of the groups that sit in the cracks of genres, they are our biggest influences.

How does Grammy validation matter to you?

What the awards have done is vastly improve our quality of life on the road. We get paid better, treated better, and there’s more respect, which means our touring life is more sustainable. It used to be really rough, very intense and very hard on our bodies and bank accounts… people may not say [it] because we’ve been nominated five times and we’ve won five times, but the nature of Snarky Puppy is being underdogs. We started when we were too jazz for rock and too rock for jazz, and no one would book us. Festivals hated us because we were too electric, and rock clubs didn’t like us because we weren’t rock enough, and we somehow figured out a way to make it work.

What are your thoughts on working with David Crosby, on his passing, and his legacy?

He was one of my closest friends … he was like family. He changed so much about how I think about music, and I’m very grateful to have been able to spend time with him in the last part of his life. He had a reputation for being a difficult person, and I wouldn’t say that’s untrue, but … I will say that I experienced that very little in the years that I knew him. He was nothing but beautiful to me and all of my friends and everyone in my community. Just one the most generous people with his time and his resources…. When people talk about him, they talk about relationships that were destroyed [and] the more outlandish stuff that happened in his life, but if you’re going to talk about that, you have to talk about how he was so full of joy and generosity, and above all, so full of wonder about music. He was like a little kid with music, he always used to say it was the most fun you could have with your clothes on. It was just beautiful. The main thing that I learned from him is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or famous or rich, just music brings joy. You get rid of all the superficial stuff, and you can reduce it down as much as you like and the core of it is just joy, and he had that at 81 years old. He was still so juiced and excited about playing, recording and creating.

You have many side projects — when you go on stage for this show, are you basically sticking to Snarky Puppy?

What I love about having so many projects is when you enter into one of them, you’re going into an entire world of music, with its own rules and natural laws and all this kind of stuff. It’s beautiful, because it exposes all kinds of parts of your personality. Actually, I don’t even like the thought of playing one of the songs from one band with another band, it doesn’t inspire me at all. I love going out with Snarky Puppy and just being in Snarky Puppy land, and then going out with Bokanté and being in that world. It’s fun, it’s like putting on a new pair of pants.

Snarky Puppy
When: Wednesday, April 12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $35.25 and up at ccanh.com

Featured photo: Snarky Puppy. Michael League is in the foreground, left. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/04/06

Local music news & events

Early coverage: Perhaps more than any other classic rockers, Led Zeppelin has left it to bands like Get The Led Out to carry the torch, having performed only three times since drummer John Bonham died in 1980. Lead singer Paul Sinclair is a convincing Robert Plant doppelgänger, as the tribute act moves through Zep’s catalog, spending a lot of time during the period when album titles, when there were any, were numbers. Thursday, April 6, 8 pm., Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia, $29 and up at etix.com.

Poetic music: Returning to a venue she began selling out soon after graduating from Berklee, Liz Longley is an uber-talented singer-songwriter. From watching her grandmother endure Alzheimer’s in the sensitive “Unraveling” to the metaphor-rich “Camaro,” Longley cuts to the heart of the matter. When she released Funeral For My Past, produced by Nashville whiz Paul Moak, it was the third most successful project in Kickstarter history. Friday, April 7, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $25 at tupelohall.com.

Celtic outreach: The outsized American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is, Máiréad Nesbitt opined a few years ago, “a great compliment to such a little country.” The fiddler has done her part as an Irish ambassador; a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Celtic Woman, she toured the world, playing iconic venues like Red Rocks and Carnegie Hall. Local favorites Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio open at her downtown show. Saturday, April 8, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $35 at palacetheatre.org.

Heavy noise: A feast for fans of experimental music, the two-day Slabfest includes Pleasure Coffin’s “interdisciplinary performance art with handmade noise machines” and New York-based Swollen Organs, who promise “power electronics, death industrial, and harsh noise about unfulfilled lust, obsession and worship” — an unquiet glance at the current zeitgeist, with waveforms as weaponry. Saturday, April 8, and Sunday, April 9, 5 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $25 ($15 single day) at wyrdrecords.bigcartel.com.

Deep tracks: A record store and a craft brewery join up for the Modern Records Pop-Up, an event that offers vintage vinyl for sale and listening. Cousin Richard, who owns the curated store, will preview any record pre-purchase. It’s quite the emporium — “Southside” Johnny Lyon stopped in recently to pick up a few 45 RPMs prior to playing a show with his band the Asbury Jukes at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club. Wednesday, April 12, 6 p.m., Earth Eagle Brewings, 175 High St., Portsmouth. See cuzinrichard.com/modern-records.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (PG-13)

Chris Evans and Michelle Rodriguez make a good questing-buddies pair in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

And I should explain up front that I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, so surely there are Easter eggs about characters and gameplay that I missed. But not knowing that world doesn’t get in the way of understanding or basically enjoying what is a pretty straightforward adventure tale set in a magic-y world.

Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) are partners in a smash-and-grab operation in the land of Neverwinter (it reads as a more chill Middle-earth) — a team that over time expands to include the so-so sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and the con artist Forge (Hugh Grant). We meet Edgin and Holga as they are rounding two years in prison after a heist they planned at the behest of the wizard Sofina (Daisy Head) goes wrong and they get caught. Edgin only took the job because the location contained a magical scroll that he hoped could bring his wife back from the dead, reuniting her with Edgin and their daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), who was only a baby when her mother died. She was mainly raised by Edgin and Holga, and for the last two years has been living with Forge — or so Edgin hopes. He asked Forge to take care of Kira when it became clear Edgin wasn’t going to escape and now he devises a somewhat stupid plan to bust himself and Holga out of prison so he can go and find his daughter.

Once they’re free, they find that Kira has been taken care of by Forge, who has really grown to relish his fatherly role. He’s enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he has convinced Kira that her dad was a jerk who abandoned her and, now that Forge (with the help of the wizard Sofina) has made himself lord of Neverwinter, he’s provided Kira with a very comfortable life and is reluctant to give it or her up.

When it becomes clear that Edgin and Holga will have to go a sneaky route to win back Kira, Edgin searches for sorcerer Simon, who now has a mediocre magic show (but a very capable pickpocket racket), and for a druid named Doric (Sophia Lillis) whose shapeshifting abilities can help the team make their plan to get into Forge’s castle, rescue Kira and find the life-giving scroll so Edgin can reunite his family.

Meanwhile, Forge and Sofina, who is secretly one of the bad guys known as Red Wizards, have some sort of nefarious plan of their own connected to a forthcoming tournament.

Showing up for too short a time is Xenk (Regé-Jean Page) as an extremely noble lone wolf warrior. The chemistry between him and the more cynical Edgin is a nice note.

“Nice” is probably an overall fair descriptor for this movie — which can sound like faint praise but isn’t really. It’s unrealistic that every movie be the best thing ever or a total mess. Honor Among Thieves is neither, it’s just light fun and uncomplicated good times. It cribs a bit from the Avengers movies, it has the fairy-tale-ish vibes of many other things but without the grimness (Game of Thrones) or the self-seriousness (many a Tolkien property) that can weigh that sort of thing down. The core characters are basically enjoyable to spend time with, even if Edgin is the only one we really get to know. And Pine is just enough of a scruffily charming hero to make that work, without ever tipping over into aggressive glibness.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the sort of movie you don’t need to rush out to see but that is entertaining enough if you find yourself in a theater watching it. B-

Rated PG-13 for fantasy action/violence and some language, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein with a screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Michael Gilio, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is two hours and 14 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Paramount Pictures.

Featured photo: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

The Half Known Life, by Pico Iyer

The Half Known Life, by Pico Iyer (Riverhead, 225 pages)

Pico Iyer is primarily known as a travel writer, but it should not be surprising that he delves into the spiritual in his latest book, given that he spends a part of each year in silent retreat at a hermitage in California. In The Half Known Life, Iyer rummages through his experiences traveling from Iran to Israel to Sri Lanka to North Korea.

The book is a travelog, of sorts, and the subtitle (“In search of paradise”) suggests that he intends to write an examination of how different religious traditions view the afterlife. But Iyer’s purpose is more complex than that.

Our longing for paradise after death is simply an extension of our longing for paradise on Earth, whether it be a place or a state of mind. He quotes Omar Khayyam, “Take care to create your own paradise, here and now on earth.” He is more concerned with how we live together in this realm, on this planet, given our vastly different perspectives on life’s biggest questions. How, he asks, can we “keep faith with even the hope of Paradise when nearly all the paradises I’d seen were, sometimes for that very reason, war zones?”

Ultimately, he offers no prescriptions, only musings, and a wealth of trivia on different cultures’ views of death and what comes after.

In Japan, for example, cemeteries are called “cities of tomorrow,” a hopeful take on human remains. Iyer writes of his Japanese wife’s custom of maintaining an altar in their home dedicated to her deceased parents, of leaving food and tea for them there every morning, and visiting their graves to tell them everything that’s going on in the family. “The doors between the living and the dead are kept open across the land, and at intervals throughout the year, lanterns are lit so the dead can make their way back to earth and look in on their much-missed loved ones.” To some Japanese, the dead are even closer to the living than they were in life.

In Sri Lanka, Iyer retraces the steps of the famed monk Thomas Merton, who was found dead in Bangkok shortly after his travels. Although a Christian, Merton had been moved by a 46-foot Buddha in deathly repose, so much so that he later wrote, “I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for.” Iyer marvels at this, “that a man who had devoted his life to the Christian God had been so stirred by the face of the Buddha, as if heaven was not the private property of any group.”

In Australia, Iyer visits the coastal city of Broome, where he is confronted by hostile Aboriginal people who resent the encroaching tourism. He notes that although a majority of Aboriginals identify as Christians, “they did not understand why Europeans needed to go into a special house to talk to God, eyes closed. For them, the promised land was nowhere but the land around them.”

And in Kashmir, the contested region which has territory that belongs to Pakistan, India and China, he visits the places that once represented earthly paradise to his mother and extended family, and muses on Salman Rushdie’s poignant question, one that can keep you up all night: “Was happiness God’s gift, or the Devil’s? He’d begun his book on Kashmir by quoting the local poet Agha Shahid Ali: ‘I am being rowed through Paradise on a river of hell.’”

And of course, he visits Jerusalem, which he has come to believe is “the place where everyday morality and religion part ways, on grounds of irreconcilable differences.” The constant tussling over holy spaces by Muslims, Jews and Christians (and within Christianity, that tussling between various denominations) renders the city a crowded and harsh cacophony that contradicts the heart of the various faiths. Jerusalem, he writes, is “a riot of views of paradise overlapping at crooked angles.” It is, he writes, “an unusually rooted place … that was always about to go up in flames.”

Iyer is a thoughtful, spiritual man of great intellect who writes beautifully, as in this description of Broome: “Nighttime clouds were illuminated by long, silent flashes, as if the heavens themselves were submitting to an X-ray.” The biographer of the Dalai Lama, he stands outside the biggest Abrahamic faiths — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — yet is reverential to religious faith of all kinds and writes respectfully even as bringing a critical eye to their battles and contradictions.

Still, the book struggled to hold my attention, as it never established a clear storyline other than the author holding forth on the myriad places he has visited; the paradise theme seems thin connective tissue that does not rise to its promise and its usual power. More memorable than Iyer’s own reflections were those of others, such as the Sufi koan about man: “Though drowned in sin / Heaven is his lot.”

Commenting on a particular type of film, Iyer writes, “they hold you for two hours with supple and constant swerves, and at the end you’re farther from a clear conclusion than ever.” The same could be said of this book. Paradise is neither lost nor found here; The Half Known Life is more of a purgatory. C+

Album Reviews 23/04/06

Poh Hock, Gallimaufry (self-released)

According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the definition for the word “gallimaufry” is “a confused jumble or medley of things.” That tracks with respect to this EP, as Poh Hock Kee’s latest songwriting foray blends jazz, prog, classic rock, soul and disco. This one launches with a spazzy bang with “Forward,” a light-speed tune that sounds like Al di Meola invading a Tonight show band rehearsal, and that leads into something even more show-stopping, “Another One Of Those Times,” which combines straight-ahead Return To Forever-ish prog rock with a highly melodic pop vocal that would have fit fine with peak-career Janet Jackson (Debo Ray does the honors on the singing end). But wait, there’s more, “I Don’t” reads like Eddie Van Halen jamming with Talas but much bigger-sounding and more sweeping. Whatever, I have no idea where this guy’s been, but this is truly groundbreaking stuff, demonstrating a deep love for wonky experimentation without ever getting bogged down with academic tedium. If you’re a prog guitarist, get on this immediately, this guy’s a genius. A+

Glorious Bankrobbers, Back on the Road (Sound Pollution Records)

“Swedish sleaze-rock,” these guys call what they do, but first we should talk about how this band would have made a few thousand bucks, maybe enough for a second-hand 1982 Toyota Corolla or a nifty barbecue smoker-barrel, if their manager hadn’t sold all their promotional freebie records in secondhand stores for beer money, which (spoiler) resulted in this band being denied any reviews or radio airplay, and of course they broke up soon after the release. It’s awful what happens to nice, totally innocent dudes who just want to get drunk and steal girlfriends, it’s just the worst, it’s almost like no one cares about us, but anyway, the guitar sound pulled me in for a second here, and I was expecting to hear some sort of New York Dolls vibe, which always gets props in this newspaper column, you guys know the drill by now. But no, this is basically a Poison clone band, as in the singer sounds exactly like Brett Michaels, which means the overall effect isn’t all that sleazy, but I get what they mean. All righty then. B-

Playlist

• Like every Friday, a new batch of albums will appear this Friday, April 7, whether you plan to buy them or not. This is a devilish plot that hatches every week because the record companies know that you’re going to have to spend all your money someplace on Fridays, so they figure that if you happen by chance to see new albums, you’ll buy them, even if they’re from Van Morrison or someone who used to be in the Smiths, because you can’t control yourself. But enough of that sort of talk, let’s dig in to this week’s foul-smelling pile and see what we — ah, look, it’s an album from Thomas Bangalter, who is one half of the former French house music duo Daft Punk, whom you know as weird techno nerds in motorcycle helmets. I was honestly never big into Daft Punk, preferring instead to listen to more traditional deep house stuff as well as being a bit allergic to Auto-Tuned singing in general and bands hiding their faces for no reason whatsoever in particular, not to mention the fact that if there’s any band I can’t stand, it’s Phoenix, but anyway, you get the picture. Bangalter’s debut solo album, Mythologies, comprises the score of a 90-minute ballet of the same name, which premiered in July 2022, featuring direction and choreography by Angelin Preljocaj. All I’ve heard so far from this record is “L’Accouchement,” which isn’t in waltz time so I doubt there’s much dancing, it’s just really melancholy sad-face sturm und drang. Hard pass from this critic.

Heather Woods Broderick is a singer-guitarist who’s originally from Maine, which is near New Hampshire; otherwise I probably wouldn’t be giving her any free publicity in this column. She has released solo material under her own name, as well as having been a member of Efterklang, Horse Feathers and Loch Lomond. She has a new album coming out this Friday title Labyrinth, which includes the push-single “Crashing Against The Sun,” a very nice, lush slow-burner that has a shoegaze tint to it while rooted in something along the lines of Lana Del Rey as far as woozy, halcyon vibe. It’s decent, even if the keyboards sound like they came from 1993.

• If you’re a GenXer who hates to feel old, don’t read the rest of this sentence, because it will tell you that the very first Mudhoney album came out 34 years ago. That band is sort if the Ed McMahon of ’80s/’90s grunge, like, basically they were awful, but because they were from Seattle, like Nirvana and Soundgarden and all those guys, they were given recording contracts and studio time and groupies, just as long as they didn’t blow up really really bigly, not that there was ever any danger of that actually happening. So, right, the band’s new LP, Plastic Eternity, is led off by the single “Almost Everything,” which is decent insofar as having a no-wave/noise-rock feel to it, like it sounds like Michael Stipe doofing around with a garage band that has a deep love for neo-psychedelica a la Brian Jonestown Massacre. That genre’s been done to death, sure, but this is a pretty good attempt.

• For my last trick, look, it’s Billie Marten, a British singer-songwriter and musician from Ripon in North Yorkshire, whatever that’s supposed to designate in the British language. She first appeared on the acoustic folk scene at the age of 12, when a YouTube of her singing attracted thousands of views, or so it’s claimed (seriously, go look, Wikipedia doesn’t quite believe it but it’s still in her Wiki page). Drop Cherries, her new album, includes a tune called “This Is How We Move,” an unplugged bit powered by guitar and a string section. It’s kind of Joni Mitchell-ish, if that’s your jam; it didn’t immediately grab me but it’s OK.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Fig and cheese tarts smothered with bacon

Since this recipe starts with figs, I know some people may look away. However, I am hoping the phrase “smothered with bacon” keeps most of you reading. Figs may not always sound appealing, but in this recipe I am pretty sure they are going to be a hit.

Although I am a fan of all figs, dried or fresh, I think what makes this recipe such a success is that the fig used in this recipe is actually fig preserves. You may wonder what you will do with the remainder of the jar after making this recipe, but the answers are many. First, you could make multiple batches of this recipe. Second, you could serve it as a condiment with a charcuterie tray. Third, it makes a great topping for toast, biscuits and more.

Now that I have you assured on your purchase of fig preserves, the other ingredients are pretty straightforward. I do have to let you know that it did take some searching to find the phyllo cups. My regular grocery store doesn’t seem to carry them anymore, but another one did. For those of you new to phyllo cups, you will find them in the dessert portion of the freezer area.

For the bacon in this recipe, I used regular sliced, as I wanted it to be extra crispy. However, if you prefer your bacon to be heartier, a thick-sliced version will work as well.

These tarts can be served straight from the oven. (Just don’t burn the roof of your mouth!) They also work well either at room temperature or cold. If you won’t be serving them immediately, be sure to store them in your refrigerator in a covered container.

Fig and cheese tarts smothered with bacon
Makes 15

5 strips bacon
15 phyllo cups
4 ounces goat cheese
4 1/2 Tablespoons fig preserves

An hour before cooking, place goat cheese on the counter to soften.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat.
Add bacon, cooking until crispy (about 5 minutes).
Transfer bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.
Place unfilled phyllo cups in a mini muffin pan or on a baking sheet, and bake for 2 minutes.
While they bake, combine goat cheese and fig preserves in a small bowl, stirring until well distributed.
Remove cups from the oven.
Divide cheese mixture evenly among the cups.
Return the cups to the oven, and bake for 5 minutes.
While cups bake, dice bacon.
Remove tarts from the oven, and top with bacon.

Featured photo: Fig and cheese tarts smothered with bacon. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Kevin Anctil

Kevin Anctil of Litchfield is the owner and pitmaster of Smokin’ Spank’s Barbecue (smokinspanks.com, and on Facebook and Instagram @smokinspank), a 22-foot food trailer he launched last fall. Anctil, who is affectionately known in his college friend circle as “Spank,” describes his concept as traditional Southern barbecue, but with some New England roots. His brisket, for instance, is smoked Texas-style with salt and pepper in tribute to his own travels, while other items include maple baby back ribs that are finished with maple syrup as a glaze. Anctil grew up on family-owned farmland in Lewiston, Maine, where his late grandfather was revered in the community for his barbecued chicken. He even pays homage to his family’s roots on the trailer, using the same original basting sauce and finishing sauce recipes for his own barbecue chicken, as well as a custom-built pit that implements the same type of sandwich grating techniques his grandfather once employed. Find Smokin’ Spank’s in the parking lot of New England Small Tube Corp. (480 Charles Bancroft Hwy., Litchfield) most Sundays, from 1 to 5 p.m. Online pre-orders are often also available.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I guess I’d have to say my smokers. That’s really where the magic happens. If I didn’t have my smokers, I’m just another kitchen.

What would you have for your last meal?

A homegrown tomato sandwich. If you’re feeling fancy, you might do it on toast or with a little olive oil, some basil or something like that.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I want to shout out the entire Litchfield food scene here. There’s a lot of stuff going on locally in town. … We’ve got Tammaro’s Cucina, which is a new Italian place, and Romano’s Pizza who has been around longer. We’ve got Day of the Dead doing fantastic Mexican, and then the Bittersweet Bake Shoppe does some fantastic desserts.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your food trailer?

I’m going to date myself a bit, but Ray Bourque. He was the legendary captain of the Boston Bruins when I was growing up. … He was just the pinnacle of an athlete to me, both within his sport and just being a gentleman and a classy guy and role model. … I know he’s a foodie too … so it would be pretty cool to be able to serve him some barbecue.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

That would be my brisket. … The only things that go on my brisket are salt, pepper and smoke, and I serve it to you sliced fresh to order. You do get some Texas table sauce along with your order, if you choose to use it or not.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

Poutine seems to be making a comeback, and I’m here for it!

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

If I’m cooking for myself, then a ridiculously big steakhouse-style steak dinner, [with a] baked potato, a big, thick steak and spinach — the works. If I’m cooking for the family, chicken soup. I do a chicken soup that takes me like two days to cook. It’s phenomenal.

Texas table sauce
From the kitchen of Kevin Anctil of Smokin’ Spank’s Barbecue in Litchfield

2 cups ketchup
1 cup white vinegar
1 lemon (juice and zest of)
½ cup white onions, grated

Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, until it just begins to boil around the edges. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. For a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender, or allow to cool and transfer to a blender. For the best results, allow it to sit overnight in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve at the table, allowing your guests to add to a smoked meat for a tangy counterpunch.


Featured photo: Kevin Anctil, owner and pitmaster of Smokin’ Spank’s Barbecue. Courtesy photo.

The legacy continues

New ownership but familiar dishes at Campo Enoteca

Three months after Campo Enoteca founders Edward Aloise and Claudia Rippee announced their retirement, a new owner has stepped in to carry on the pioneering couple’s legacy. Nashua native Eric Maxwell acquired the downtown farm-to-table Italian restaurant earlier this year, reopening its doors on March 16 and retaining much of its original staff.

For guests, especially loyal fans of Campo who have frequented the restaurant since its 2014 opening, the new ownership is welcome news. That’s because Maxwell said he plans to keep the menus the same, while also expanding the options and even adding a separate lunch menu soon.

“I come from an Italian family with a lot of restaurants in the Ohio and western Pennsylvania areas, so it’s always been sort of my dream to have an Italian spot locally,” Maxwell said.

Aloise and Rippee originally opened Campo Enoteca on the heels of closing the Milltowne Grille — the latter enjoyed a highly successful 20-year run at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. At the time of its opening, Campo was just a two-minute walk south of Republic Cafe, which opened four years earlier and would soon achieve recognition as the first New Hampshire eatery to receive “certified local” status by the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection.

Then came the pandemic, ultimately prompting Aloise and Rippee to make the decision to move all of Republic’s operations under the same roof as Campo. For more than two years thereafter, they operated as the “Republic of Campo,” offering two separate menus under one roof.

In December, the couple announced that, after a career spanning more than three decades in Manchester eateries, they would be stepping away from the kitchen. They put the restaurant up for sale, and Maxwell, who has a background in food manufacturing, decided to “jump on it.”

“I had been to Campo probably half a dozen times … and that concept really fit who I was,” he said. “When it went up for sale, the writing was kind of on the wall. … I had wanted to mirror something like that, but I couldn’t believe that it was that — one of the restaurants that I absolutely loved.”

Maxwell recruited his sister, Erin Convery, who has front end experience at local restaurants, to run Campo’s day-to-day operations as general manager. All of the eatery’s bartenders and waitstaff have returned, he added, as have a few members of the kitchen staff.

“Peter [Macone], the old GM, has actually been working with my sister, basically making the introductions to all the farms and the vendors, so [the ownership transition] has definitely been very smooth,” Maxwell said. “We’ll expand with some personal family touches, but we won’t get rid of anything that was on the menu before. The Republic recipes will also be on the menu.”

Instead of removing any staple items, Maxwell plans to only add to the existing menu, perhaps most notably when it comes to Campo’s house-made pastas.

“Lunch will be kind of a new concept,” he said. “It will be pick your stuffed pasta, pick your sauce, pick your salad or whatever, so you can come in and get cheese ravioli [or] beef ravioli and whatever sauce you want to try with it. That will cater toward the lunch menu side of things.”

Lunch is available on Fridays and Saturdays for now, but Maxwell said the plan is to also be open on Sundays in the coming weeks. As they were under Campo’s previous ownership, dine-in reservations are available, as well as online ordering and curbside pickup.

Campo Enoteca
Where: 969 Elm St., Manchester
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Expanded hours likely coming soon and will include Sundays
More info: Visit campoenoteca.com, find them on Facebook and Instagram @campoenoteca or call 625-0256

Featured photo: Photos courtesy of Campo Enoteca.

Any way you slice it

Fresh pies and good times at South Manchester pizzeria

A South Manchester pizzeria is proving that good vibes don’t have to stop with freshly baked pies. It’s also a place where you can pick up and play the electric guitar, sing tunes from a jukebox connected to your phone, flex your mental muscles during trivia night and sip cocktails reminiscent of Capri Sun, Bomb Pops and other nostalgic childhood favorites.

It’s all part of a unique experience Gregg Joseph aims to bring to his customers at Clemento’s Pizzeria & Brew. He took over ownership of the eatery last year after previously working in the corporate world. He operates it with his wife, Estella, along with help from the couple’s children.

Joseph was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and came to the United States as a teenager. He first lived in Miami for a time before coming up to Massachusetts and later New Hampshire.

Pizza pies are baked fresh to order every day, with thin crusts and hand-rolled doughs Joseph said are characteristic of a traditional New York-style.

black man wearing suit jacket posing with light skinned black woman in their restaurant
Clemento’s of Manchester’s owner-operator Gregg Joseph and his wife, Estella. Courtesy photo.

“We have the open kitchen concept, so you see your pizza being made right in front of you,” he said. “You’re seeing your dough getting stretched, [and] you’re seeing the onions getting chopped to be put on your pizza right then and there.”

Since assuming ownership, Joseph has incorporated some of the flavors he enjoyed back home on some of his specialty pizza toppings. Gregg’s Caribbean Jerk Special, for instance, is a pie topped with jerk sauce, chicken, green and banana peppers, onions, jalapenos and mushrooms. Almost any pie can also be baked using a gluten-free crust.

Rounding out the food menu are calzones, hot and cold subs — Joseph recommends the meatball sub, featuring handmade meatballs from his wife — appetizers, like deep-fried chicken wings, cheesy garlic bread and fried pickle chips; and scratch-made desserts, from fried dough to fried brownie and cheesecake bites.

Clemento’s boasts a lineup of nearly two dozen domestic and local craft brews, in addition to an extensive offering of craft cocktails Joseph said his wife will often experiment with.

“People know what a cosmo is, and what a Manhattan is, so we like to have a little twist on some things,” he said.

The Twisted Capri Sun, for example, features a dark rum, shaken with banana liqueur, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and a splash of strawberry puree. Blueberry vodka, lemonade, blue Curaçao and Razzmatazz liqueur make up the Bomb Pop cocktail, named after the popular treat you commonly see off of an ice cream truck’s menu.

The eatery’s interior dining space is small, but Joseph still manages to offer entertainment every night throughout the week. Monday nights feature open mic comedy with a rotating group of regional comedians. On Tuesdays it’s all about the karaoke — the pizzeria has a TouchTunes jukebox you can use directly from your phone. Wednesdays are trivia nights with Clemento’s regular Benji Day; Thursdays are game nights and Fridays are open mic music nights.

“If you open a restaurant in Haiti, people … are coming for the different activities that you’re offering, and that’s sort of the same model that I’m trying to bring here,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t even come in for the food. They’re coming because there’s a smile. … If you like open mic comedy, I got you. You want to play guitar, I have one I can plug in for you right now. Sooner or later, I’ll find something that you’ll like and you’ll just keep coming back.”

Clemento’s Pizzeria & Brew
Where: 1875 S. Willow St., Manchester
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
More info: Visit clementospizzeriabrew.com, find them on Facebook @clementosmanchester or call 782-8450
Takeout and delivery services are also available through GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats.

Featured photo: Photos courtesy of Clemento’s Pizzeria & Brew in Manchester.

The Weekly Dish 23/04/06

News from the local food scene

Easter sweets: Join Assumption Greek Orthodox Church (111 Island Pond Road, Manchester) for a walk-in Easter bake sale organized by the Ladies Philoptochos Society that’s scheduled for Saturday, April 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. inside its church hall. Spinach and cheese petas, Easter bread and Greek cookies and pastries like baklava, kourambiethes and koulourakia will all be available. For more ideas on how to celebrate Easter Sunday this weekend, check out our annual listings that ran in the March 30 issue; they begin on page 34. Go to hippopress.com to read the e-edition of the March 30 issue.

Cheers to seven years: Lithermans Limited Brewery (126B Hall St., Concord) is celebrating its seventh anniversary in business on Saturday, April 8, from noon to 8 p.m. The day will include special menu offerings from Up Street Food Truck, known for its “upscale street food” concept, as well as Let’s Get Cupcaked, a Henniker-based pop-up business specializing in hand-crafted cupcakes in a variety of flavors. Since opening in the spring of 2016, Lithermans has grown to become a leading New Hampshire brewery, known for its music-themed brews and regular schedule of local food trucks. Visit lithermans.beer or find them on Facebook @lithermans.beer for details on their upcoming anniversary party.

Here we go! Chunky’s Cinema Pub in Pelham (150 Bridge St.) is partnering with Ya Mas Greek Taverna & Bar in town for a family-friendly five-course dinner party alongside a screening of The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Join them on Thursday, April 13, at 6:30 p.m. — the meal will feature separate Mario-themed menus for adults and for kids. Before the start of the movie, the chef at Ya Mas will speak about the featured menu items. The cost is $75 for adults and $25 for kids and includes all five courses as well as the movie screening. Vegetarian and VIP wine pairing options are also available for the adult menu. A special 21+ only screening of the movie is also happening on Thursday, April 6, at 8 p.m., across all three of Chunky’s locations. That event is being sponsored by Crown Royal Regal Apple and will feature their “Power-Up Punch” (a cocktail featuring Crown Royal Regal Apple, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, sour mix and grenadine). Visit chunkys.com.

Chili cook-off results: More than 175 chili lovers attended this year’s Amherst Fire & Ice cook-off and ice cream social on March 10, according to a press release. The Amherst Lions Club organizes the competition as a fundraiser for local charity organizations. “[It] is always a fun community event, bringing family and friends together during [the] dreary winter,” Amherst Lion Shirley Flowers said in the release. The crowd selected Bruce Manchester as the People’s Choice best chili, while participating judges selected Hooksett Lion David Hutchinson’s smoked brisket chili as the Best Lions Club chili and Moulton’s Kitchen & Market’s red and white bean chili as Best Restaurant chili. Each winner received an engraved traveling trophy and bragging rights for one year.

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