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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.

How can someone reserve the space for an event? They can go on our website [paolosboston.com] or they can call us on our land line. Or, these days, they can even Facebook us.

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.

Paolo's Trattoria

  • Features: Italian food, wood-fired pizza, seafood, wine and beer
  • Located: 251 Main St., Charlestown
  • Parking: On street
  • Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 5-10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 5-10:30 p.m.
  • Website: www.paolosboston.com
  • Telephone: 617-242-7229

Know a great Charlestown business that should be featured on Patch? Email the location and contact information to becca.manning@patch.com.

WD February 25, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Paolo's is very middle of the road. There isn't anything too special about the food. The only thing keeping them in business is Charlestown's aversion to having restaurants at street level so there is little competition for the dining dollar.
HSW February 25, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Your negativity is misguided and inappropriate. The warm and welcoming atmosphere at Paolo's is most definitely lost on you. The food is great and always consistent! Damian goes out of his way to make kids feel welcome and it's greatly appreciated.
TheMaskedTruthsayer February 25, 2013 at 12:50 PM
I hope someday the quality of the dining establishments in Charlestown reflect the cost of the R.E. but that day has not arrived yet.
Just a person! February 25, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Plenty O'Toole That will never happen, because all the store fronts are turned into your so called quality of real estate, (condos)
Just a person! February 25, 2013 at 02:16 PM
And, just for the record,have no problem with Paolo's Maybe Plenty O you should stick with Olives!
WD February 25, 2013 at 02:23 PM
At least Olives gives diners something different that what they can cook in their own home. (Not a fan of their prices) If I want spaghetti and bolognese - I will make it myself. People go out to eat because they want to taste something made by a professional cook that they couldn't replicate on their own.
Seamus O'Sullivan February 25, 2013 at 02:37 PM
I'd actually put Paolo's up against many of the restaurants in the North End. Interior leaves ab it to be desired, but as far as a local neighborhood spot, IMO it doesn't get much better. Olive's may be the most overrated restaurant in Boston. The food there is overpriced trash for the unoriginal.
Diane Grant February 25, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Paolo's is a great local restaurant that serves wonderful food, and the staff couldn't be better. Gina pizza my favorite!
Just a person! February 25, 2013 at 04:23 PM
As long as your not really hungry, their meals are only appetizers! If you call it a meal you must eat like a bird!
TheMaskedTruthsayer February 25, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Can we get that again, in English preferably? Olives is also overpriced and has long-ago reached it's nadir. I guess when you grow up on sub sandiwches, you'd likely consider thi crap haute cuisine.
TheMaskedTruthsayer February 25, 2013 at 04:57 PM
The North End resturants aren't whatthey once were, either. Boston as a whole is to haute cuisine what Walmart is to fashion. Sorry, it's just the way it is.
TheMaskedTruthsayer February 25, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Serve a Bud with it and they will come.
Erin McDonald February 25, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Thank you Diane, a genuine comment from a believe able pen name. Why does the comment section of the Patch generate such negativity? Sad.
Lisa February 25, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I love Paolo's. Great food, great atmosphere.
Joseph February 25, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Paolo's is very good. Great portions. Their red sauce is delicious. Very friendly waitstaff.
Abby February 25, 2013 at 08:23 PM
It's about time to see Paolo's getting some recognition! Having left many of Boston's "finest" restaurants unimpressed, I appreciate the delicious food and - just as importantly - the warm, inviting ambiance always waiting at Paolo's. You're wonderful - thank you!
MLB February 25, 2013 at 08:24 PM
I have never been dissdapointed when I have dined at Paolo's. I have been a customer since they opened. The changeover in owners did not impact the hospitality and quality of the food. They are very welcoming and accomodating. Prices are fair and the wine list is diverse. It is a cozy place to dine. Pizza is great! They have a menu that is diverse, service is attentive and friendly and the food is very good! Glad they are in the neighborhood!
Tim February 25, 2013 at 08:58 PM
I'm a fan of Paolo's, mostly for their takeout. We had dinner in the dining room a few weeks ago and all of the kids in the small space detracted from our experience. There isn't much of a bar there and the wine selection is limited but the food is good. Try the steak tips...
Matthew February 25, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Who are you to try to tell people what to think? I agree 100% with WD. You're not the only one with an opinion.
Matthew February 25, 2013 at 09:35 PM
JAP, I have never left Olives hungry. Between a salad, app, and entree, it's a solid meal.
Matthew February 25, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Because people have their own opinions. We don't all buy into the uber-positive, politically correct behavior that most people subscribe to.
Matthew February 25, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Apparently no one is allowed to dislike Paolo's without being verbally attacked for it. I am not a huge fan. I gave the food several chances and it was lost on me. I the last time I was there I ordered the antipasto salad and couldn't even finish. For the people lashing out at those of us who dare to not enjoy Paolo's, please respect others' opinions.
Matthew February 25, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Olives has better cocktails, better presentation, and, in my opinion, a better ambience for my personal taste. This is just my opinion. Please respect it. I'm only saying that because several people have been verbally attacked for daring to not like Paolo's. Typical Charlestown.
Stephanie February 25, 2013 at 10:31 PM
I, too, think Paolo's is a great local restaurant, and I've never been disappointed. Keep up the good work, Damian & Adam.
Velvet Jones February 25, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Olive's is for pretentious dopes that think they're too good for Paolo's ,and think getting ripped off by a scam artist makes them hip . But these same people go to Old Sully's to slum it ? Sure Paolo's isn't 5 stars ,but I'd have a meal and a drink at Damian's any day over any one of Tawd's tourist traps.
Velvet Jones February 26, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Matt, stop crying will ya, you don't like Paolo's , we get it. I was born and raised here and yes, we have the cement heads who don't like ''outsiders'', that's an ignorant minority, but every time I read a post of yours you seem contrarian about everything that's ''Charlestown'', then when people respond you cry that you are ''under attack''. You are a conservative in a mainly liberal town , man up. People are provincial here and when you shite on a local guy's restaurant ,a guy who gives a ton back to our town, and praise an interloping con artist's restaurant who does nothing for our town, but overcharge wannabe hipsters , sorry you're gonna hear it. BTW I like a fly in the ointment, I welcome your opinions, but stop being so thin skinned.
Matthew February 26, 2013 at 09:12 PM
SHut up, "Velvet", seriously. You claim to live in Newton. You don't even live in Charlestown. When a non-controversial post appeared on Charlestown Patch regarding another tragic drug related death, you immediately came out swinging. And when people made it clear that you were not welcome, you continued to spew hate and complain about being attacked. You're a phony. So stop crying, will ya?
Matthew February 26, 2013 at 09:14 PM
I don't think anyone frequenting Olives is "slumming it" at Old Sully's. I pop into Old Sully's for a drink once in a while, and never think I'm "slumming it". Why would you even think about associating that time honored establishment with "slumming"?
Joseph February 28, 2013 at 07:00 PM
50% off @ Paulos - Check out Living Social Deal today. Enjoy!! http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/2-boston/deals/604256-30-or-50-to-spend-on-italian-cuisine
just thinking April 02, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I used to get a lot of take-out from paulo's,but the menu is the same small choice and the food is nowhere worth the prices

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