In the Kitchen Michael Montecalvo hails from the Puglia region of Italy, on the Adriatic Sea. He wanted to bring his family’s knowledge of seafood and cooking to his own restaurant, and opened Trattoria Bar 89 Centrale in Milford 10 years ago. He previously co-owned a restaurant, the former Peppe’s Trattoria in Northborough, for four years. But the Milford restaurant allowed him an opportunity to run his own family business. His wife, Irene, is a co-owner and makes all of the restaurant’s desserts. Michael oversees the kitchen and the menu, which changes regularly. He arrives by 9 a.m. to begin the marinara and other sauces, and supervises the sous chefs when they arrive. When he opened the restaurant, Montecalvo said, he wanted to create a small, intimate space that reminded him of the neighborhood cafes of Italy. Over the past decade, the trattoria has survived ups and downs in the economy. “If you believe in a product and a service, people will respond to that,” Montecalvo said.
The Locale The restaurant can be easy to overlook from the street. It is in the basement of Milford’s Flatiron Building, an imposing 19th-century structure made of the local Milford Pink granite. The Montecalvos named their trattoria for its central location in downtown Milford: 89 Main St., next to the fire station. The basement’s raw granite posts, wooden beams, and stone walls make for a charming, cozy atmosphere. The main dining room is fairly large, and has a full bar with seating that is popular for after-work cocktails. Reservations are recommended on Friday and Saturday nights, as the space fills quickly. Valet parking is complimentary on weekend nights. On other nights, patrons may park on the street, in the parking lot of the bank next door, or at Town Hall. The restaurant is not accessible to people with limited mobility.
On the Menu The restaurant is open for dinners only. The menu is carefully edited to reflect the restaurant’s specialities, which include fresh seafood, chicken, veal, and seasonal dishes. “My mission was to create value with a simple menu, one to two pages,” Montecalvo said, “give you a sense of freshness. We concentrate on buying what is available during that week. Based on that, we create a traditional, regional menu with modern interpretation of dishes.” The best sellers are the veal dishes ($19), which include vitello alla parmigiana, and anything with seafood. One of the signature dishes is the linguine ai frutti di mare ($19), or “fruit of the sea” — clams, mussels, calamari, and shrimp — over pasta. Montecalvo likes to serve the seafood as naturally as possible. The calamari appetizer (calamaretti fritti, $9) includes not just the body of the squid, for example, but bite-sized portions of the tentacles, too. I ordered the cheese lasagna special ($17) and my friend had pollo alla cacciatora ($17). Everything was cooked well and tasted fresh, and the homemade sauces were amazing. The restaurant has an ample wine list and several beer selections as well.
Trattoria Bar 89 Centrale, 89 Main St., Milford, 508-634-8911; www.trattoria89.comMary MacDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.