Besos means kisses in Spanish, but there’s only a peck on the cheek of Spanish cuisine at Besos Kitchen and Cocktails, so don’t let the name fool you. The restaurant has changed considerably over the past few years, including a beautiful remodel, but it’s the most recent addition of Chef Joseph Caldarone that will most excite diners. He’s been refocusing the restaurant to be laid-back while still maintaining an upscale farm-to-table approach.
Chef Joseph has been in the kitchen since he was 13 and has a long resume, highlighted by his work under the acclaimed Jeanie Roland at Ella’s in Westerly. He has a genuine enthusiasm for showcasing well-sourced ingredients, without being stuffy about it. Whether it’s tacos heading out of the kitchen or squid ink pasta, his approach remians the same.
Most chefs either grew up in the industry or go the culinary school route. Which way did you go?
I didn’t really like school, but I liked cooking. So that’s what I did. I would go home, read cookbooks and make recipes in my spare time. But they pay me to do it here, so it’s pretty awesome. I get to work with ingredients I wouldn’t even think about if I weren’t in a place like this.
What dish are you most excited about putting on Besos’ menu?
Paella. With the [restaurant’s] name being Besos, people want to see some sort of Spanish flair. We serve it in a 12-inch paella pan, so you get that rustic Spanish feel. I order my rice from Spain and make a saffron sofrito, so it’s a totally Spanish composition but with all local seafood. We add Georges Bank scallops, white gulf shrimp and local calamari from Point Judith. There’s a little aioli on top just to round it out and make it creamy.
Is there an ingredient you’re really excited to work with?
[Recently I’ve beenworking with] Stonington red shrimp. They’re a deep water shrimp, so not many boats go for them because they’re very hard to catch. They’re bright red when you get them and stay that way when you cook them. They have the texture of shrimp, but taste like lobster.
I’m feeling a little parched. What’s behind the bar?
Josh Nault is our head mixologist and he’s been here for a long time. When I say every single drink is crafted, every single drink is crafted. He makes his own bitters, vodkas, barrel-aged bourbons and aged stouts. I’m pretty impressed by him. He asked me if I’ve cured salmon before because he wanted to make a cocktail from it. I’m like, “what are you talking about?” So I cured some salmon skin, he infused gin with it and we tried it today. It’s actually really good. I don’t know why, or how he’s going to use it, but whatever he puts it in, I know it will be good.
There are wine pairings and then there’s your Flavors of New England pairing you hold afew times a year. What makes this different?
We’re ordering from all local farms and doing a four-course cocktail and dinner pairing. The cocktails and the food are all going to be New England ingredients, but not necessarily New England dishes. For example, I’m doing a dashi [a Japanese seafood soup base], but I’m doing it with New England flavors. I’m also going to do Parker House rolls, maybe baked beans with a house sausage, and a play on shrimp and grits with shrimp and Johnny Cakes. It’s going to be really fun.
Besos Kitchen and Cocktails
378 Main Street, East Greenwich