Patch Chats with Paolo's Trattoria
The Italian bistro on Main Street serves dinner seven days per week beginning at 5 p.m.
Whether you're looking for a family-friendly restaurant where you can dine with the kids or a date night setting with a romantic feel, Paolo's Trattoria in Charlestown is your spot.
Located at 251 Main St., the Italian bistro is owned and operated by Charlestown resident Adam Hawk and Charlestown native Damian Donovan, now of Back Bay. The two took over the restaurant from the previous owner, kept the name and updated some other aspects, striving to offer a neighborhood bistro where everyone feels welcome.
Charlestown Patch sat down recently with Donovan to talk about how he and Hawk came to own the bistro and what they hope to provide there.
How did you get started with Paolo’s? I worked on the executive level for a company called Lyons Group for about a decade or so and kind of got burned out. It was pretty much overseeing general managers of different restaurants and pubs. So I took a hiatus. Adam and his wife Renée live right next door to the restaurant, and at the time I lived below them. We realized that this little bistro was for sale and Adam asked me what my thoughts were and I said yeah. I grew up here. I believe in the neighborhood, and I thought we could do really well here.
We’ve owned it for a little over six years, and it’s been great. It’s definitely not one of those jobs where you’re like, 'Oh geez, I’ve got to go to work.' I’m genuinely happy to be here. I think we have a great product and a nice little spot.
How did you decide the theme of the place and the type of food you’d be serving? We didn’t change the name. It was one of those things where ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.’ So we tweaked it—tweaked the staff to a degree, tweaked a few recipes, more than anything tweaked the ambiance, the music, the lighting. We wanted to be Charlestown’s neighborhood spot. The food was already excellent so we just kind of went from there.
What dishes is Paolo's known for? We’re really well known for our bolognaise pasta. We did not touch that recipe, because it was perfect. We do a number of seafood specials. We do tenderloin, which goes over extremely well. We have a wood-fired pizza oven, and we added a great lobster pizza. Generally our menu stays consistent, but the specials change weekly.
Are you open for lunch and dinner? We open seven days a week at 5 o’clock [p.m.]. Other than a blizzard, the only times we close are Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
What is the atmosphere at Paolo's? I would say from 5-6:30 p.m., it's families—I don't mind if the kids are running around all through the restaurant. But then at 7 p.m. it's a large group spot or a date spot. We’ve developed a lot of regular customers between 5 and 6:30 that initially were hesitant about bringing their kids in, and now they know that they’re more than welcome to. We’re starting to get people from Back Bay, the North End and Beacon Hill traveling over the bridge, which is a good thing. And we get some people from the North Shore that come down.
Do you hold special events at the restaurant? Because we open at 5 p.m., it gives us the flexibility to do a lot of christenings and baptisms. So once May rolls around, we’ll get hit up for a lot of events. Generally those events start at noon and the last guests leave by 4 p.m.
What is your history with Charlestown? I’m born and bred Charlestown. I grew up on Baldwin Street, have a lot of ties to the community, a lot of good friends here. I played hockey here and was involved in all of the youth sports. My dad and my mom are involved [in the community]. I’m a member of the Bunker Hill Associates. I'm from Charlestown; this is where my heart is. I very much enjoy having a business here. It’s nice to see that there’s more and more local business owners that are occupying Main Street.
Adam is from Norwell originally but he’s been in Charlestown for a long time. He loves the neighborhood, has two little ones here.
It’s just a great neighborhood. It’s like that Irish song—which probably shouldn’t go in an article about an Italian bistro—but to quote the song, 'A town I love so well.' I lived in Beacon Hill for ages when I was with Lyons Group and I'm in Back Bay now, but my wife always makes fun of me—she’ll drive me to work on a Saturday and Sunday after brunch, and she's like, 'There's some sort of calm that comes over you when you come over the bridge and see the Monument.' I just love this neighborhood. I love the people in the neighborhood—the people that have been here forever, and the people that are new. We have a great mix of both.
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