Though Chef Mike Pagliarini would likely say his culinary roots are in Umbria, where until recently his relatives had a lentil farm in a hilltop town near Perugia, the source of his love of food and cooking is a bit more multi-faceted.
Pagliarini learned what it means to cook from his mother, who regularly used her talents in the kitchen to fill their house with warmth and love. To this day, there’s almost always something on the stove and he’d rather turn on the oven to warm the house than turn up the thermostat.
He learned how to eat from the French during his time as a student in Paris and as an English teacher in the northern town of Douai. While traveling throughout France, Spain, and Italy he explored the street markets and wine bars and discovered the leisure of an afternoon table and the ceremony of an evening meal.
Actually learning how to cook proved to be the most difficult component of Pagliarini’s culinary education. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, graduating in December of 2000. Serendipity brought him to Hamersley’s Bistro where he secured an externship (he actually followed the produce delivery into the restaurant and began working). From there he landed his first full-time kitchen job as Garde-Manger at Radius.
After scaling a few peaks at Radius, a few twists and turns led him to Chicago, where he met Henry Adania, owner of Trio, which had an incredible reputation for developing new talent. Adania had just hired a former Sous Chef from The French Laundry to run his kitchen. Pagliarini did a stage with Chef Grant Achatz and spent the next two years working in his highly disciplined, meticulously organized kitchen.
A trip to London and Paris in the summer of 2003 proved quite significant. Not only did he stage with Heston Blumenthal, Chef of the Michelin three starred restaurant The Fat Duck, but he and his wife Pam got engaged after a fine meal on the Isle-St.-Louis.
Having decided that they wanted to move back to the East Coast, Pagliarini headed back into the kitchen at Radius where Schlow was looking for a Sous Chef. In the fall of 2007, Via Matta needed a Chef and Pagliarini could hardly turn down the opportunity. The farm in Umbria would have to wait.
In 2012, Pagliarini and his wife opened Giulia, an intimate Italian eatery between Harvard and Porter Squares. The focus at Giulia is on providing exceptional service and wonderful food – especially hand-made pastas, which are rolled out on the pasta table in the dining room during the day before making it on to the menu at night.
Ready for their next challenge, the Pagliarinis opened Benedetto in the Charles Hotel in late 2016, adding a second Umbrian-inspired Cambridge restaurant to their repertoire.