Monday, March 5, 2018

Rant: Too Many Italian Restaurants in Wakefield?

A new Italian restaurant is coming to Wakefield, but does the town really need it?

Back in 2011, I wrote a post on food trends, and stated: "Let me use another example, the suburban town of Wakefield. It has a population of about 25,000 and already had several Italian restaurants. Yet within the last year or so, even more Italian restaurants opened, most within about a half-mile or so. How many similar Italian restaurants does one small suburban town need? Why would a restaurateur decide to open another Italian place, when there is already plenty of competition? It doesn't seem to make good business sense."

Since that time, a couple Italian restaurants have closed but others have opened, so there are still plenty of Italian restaurants in Wakefield, many located within a short distance of each other. As a general thought, I'd probably echo the idea from my prior post and state Wakefield doesn't need another Italian restaurant. I'd rather see a new restaurant serving a different type of cuisine.

However, based on recent news, it appears I need to modify my position. I'm actually excited to learn about a new Italian restaurant, Tonno, which may open in Wakefield this summer. What has gotten me to change my mind?

If you check out the menus of the existing Italian restaurants in Wakefield, you'll find many similarities. Plenty of Chicken Parmigiana, Eggplant Rollatini, and Veal Marsala. In general, their differences appear minor and it is that relative similarity which is off-putting. Wakefield certainly doesn't need another Italian restaurant with a similar menu. Fortunately, Tonno is bringing something more unique to Wakefield.

Back in 2000, Chef/owner Anthony Caturano opened Prezza in the North End and it is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Boston. In 2016, Chef Caturano opened his second restaurant, Tonno, in Gloucester, highlighting Italian seafood dishes. With a hope of opening this summer, Chef Caturano is establishing a second location of Tonno in Wakefield. The menu at the Wakefield location will be similar to that of Gloucester so check out their Menu. You'll note the concentration on seafood dishes, which is something you won't find in the other Italian restaurants in Wakefield, all which generally have only a few seafood dishes.

At Tonno, you'll be able to get Oysters and Cherrystones, Crudo and Tuna Tartare, Octopus "la plancha" and Grilled Shrimp, and so much more. Some of the entrees include their famous Grilled Tuna Steak, Cioppino, Cod Oreganatta, and Scallops "la plancha." You'll also find homemade pasta dishes, from Tagliatelle Bolognese to Cavatelli, Rabe & Sausage. If you compare Tonno's menu to the other Italian restaurants in Wakefield, the amount of similarity is very small. Chef Caturano is bringing a much different Italian restaurant to Wakefield, one which fills a gap, especially considering all of the seafood dishes they offer.

As I'm sure you're aware, I've long been imploring my readers to eat more seafood, especially because of all its health benefits. To have a new restaurant, promoting fresh, and often local, seafood, then that is a restaurant which appeals to me.

I also have much faith in the culinary skills and knowledge of Chef Caturano, and feel secure that his new restaurant will be impressive. I rarely dine at the other Italian restaurants in Wakefield, finding most of them to be of rather average quality. However, I expect I'll be a regular at Tonno when it opens. So, before you dismiss Tonno as just another Italian restaurant, do your research and understand its differences, and the reasons why you should anticipate its opening.


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