Where to The Don’s BBQ in Watertown, in the old Strip-T’s space.
Why Barbecue with an Italian twist.
The backstory Those who know Sebastian DiFelice’s talents with meat call him the “Godfather of Brisket.” But for years, he toiled in carnivorous obscurity, working as a compliance officer for banks by day and smoking on a small Weber smoker, an anniversary present from his wife, when he could.
“I was in corporate America for 25 years, and it was slowly killing my soul,” he says.
A fortuitous layoff at age 53 gave him the freedom to pursue barbecue full-time.
“It fascinated me. Being Italian, you’re always stirring and sauteing. With barbecue, you just season it, put it in, and don’t touch it for 15 hours,” he says.
He gradually built a catering following — a brisket here, a pulled pork there — and ultimately plunked down $6,000 for a trailer-mounted smoker, appearing at local breweries such as Mighty Squirrel during the warmer months while dreaming of owning his own restaurant.
At an age when many are contemplating retirement, his career is starting to sizzle.
“I’m turning 60 next year, and I’m starting another chapter,” DiFelice says proudly.
What to eat “I try to keep my menu simple,” he says, and that means dry-rubbed, Texas-style brisket, smoky on the edges, without sauce.
“I don’t slather or baste it. I just season it simply, salt and pepper, low and slow,” he explains.
The finished product maintains an admirable beef-to-fat ratio and also comes as a Reuben, dressed with vinegary Carolina slaw and Swiss, or atop nachos.
As a concession to non-purists, he also offers brisket burritos (with cheddar, salsa, and sour cream), plus pulled pork, pork ribs, and smoked chicken; dinners come with two meats and two sides and feed four. On the weekends, get a “football special” with a rack of ribs, a half-dozen wings, two sides, and a half-tray of cornbread for $69.99.
As for sides: Try the crunchy hush puppies, deep-fried with cornmeal and fit for a carnival, and the refreshing cucumber, onion, and dill salad. NOLA mac-and-cheese — DiFelice has family in New Orleans — is a bit gluey, and cornbread is standard-issue. The Don’s baked beans, though, are a syrupy delight. For dessert? Tiramisu, a nod to his Italian roots.
One thing to remember: He cooks only for the day. Everything’s fresh, but when he’s out of food, you’re out of luck. Standard hours are 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
What to drink Sweet tea, soda, lemonade.
The takeaway A quirky little spot for game-day takeout or to feed a crowd.
“I want people to feel like they stopped into a little Texas barbecue joint,” he says — one with a “Godfather” movie poster on the wall, of course.
93 School St., Watertown, 617-744-0224, www.thedonsbbq.com