If you love to eat in or around the North End, chances are you’ve dined at a Frattaroli restaurant. Restaurateur Nick Frattaroli runs Bodega Canal, North Square Oyster, and Ward 8. Other family members brought you places such as Artu, Ducali, Filippo, and Lucia. Soon, Frattaroli will take over Amici on North Washington Street and turn it into an Italian restaurant “with lots of fresh pasta, cheeses, prosciutto. Stuff you could really find in Italy,” he says.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? I grew up in East Boston. There used to be this restaurant called Caffe Italia. There used to be two. One was on Meridian, and one was up Orient Heights. The one on Meridian is now La Hacienda. The one up the Heights is called Angela’s. You probably know it. When I would go there, it’d be with my parents and older sister. My parents were both servers [in the North End], my sister was a bus girl, and we’d stop there for pizza right near the tunnel. They would brush their crust with olive oil. As a kid, it was completely different than what you’d just get grabbing a pizza, and I’d get a peanut butter gelato with a real peanut butter swirl. My uncle’s restaurant was Lucia. My parents were two of the servers. I used to get to hang out there as a kid and at the end of a long night, we’d go over there.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? I don’t want to get into trouble! I’m trying to get a liquor license. They have to figure out this situation. It’s risky. If they decide to remove the cap, these licenses aren’t worth much, so that’s the tough part. I don’t know what the right play is. We have to figure out what’s going on. In Boston, they talk about removing the cap. They go for $300,000 and $400,000 now, but it’s hard to invest that if you could get one for free. I understand that if there’s an underserved community, you should put them there first.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? I think everything is getting more casual. The stuffiness is leaving. The tablecloths are leaving. It’s polished casual. For me, that’s what I’m into. I’m more about having fun.
What other restaurants do you visit? I enjoy going to Bar Mezzana for prosciutto, Prosecco, pasta. Pammy’s does a great job, with a nice Negroni on tap. They have cocoa nib cake. My wife and I have gone a few times. I live in Charlestown, so I’ll go to Brewer’s Fork, and I’ll pick up some pizzas for the house and have a few beers.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think: I want to work in restaurants? Again, going back to my parents, working for my uncle. Eventually I was in charge. I’d look at the book on a Saturday, hundreds of people, large parties, and try to figure out that puzzle and how to get everyone in and out. You’d start with a plan. Then you make adjustments, make sure everyone gets in. There’s that rush a restaurant gives you when it’s rocking. What I really loved was the calm after everyone came and went, thinking back on the night. I worked as a teenager, went to UMass Amherst, got out of school at 21, and went right to work.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? This was my wife and my favorite. We’d go for pasta, and get the same one each time. One time we went, and it came out so bad! We had one bite, and something was completely wrong. It was sour. It was bad. It was rancid. It ruined the restaurant for me. It’s a classic place. Can we not say where it is?
How could Boston become a better food city? Boston needs to keep doing what it’s doing. Every day, Boston is getting stronger, [James Beard] nominations are coming out. [These chefs] can compete with anyone in the country. They’re rubbing shoulders with everyone, and they deserve it, too.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Educated, loyal, thirsty — thirsty at Ward 8! I say that in a good way. They’re excited for classic cocktails done well.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? I think it’s got to be sushi burritos, even though I’ve never had one. It’s something I can’t get into.
What are you reading? Stuff with my kids. I’m reading “Good Night, Gorilla” with my son.
How’s your commute? My commute’s great. I walk back and forth to work a couple times per day and can get to each [restaurant] in 15 minutes. The only thing is when it snows, they don’t shovel the Charlestown Bridge, which I don’t understand.
What’s the one food you never want to eat again? Foie gras. It has never been my thing. I tried to, but I just can’t get into it.
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? I’ve got to say breakfast. I know Mamaleh’s in Kendall is doing a great job. I see Sweet Cheeks is doing it, and I’m excited because those biscuits are phenomenal. But we need more seven-days-a-week breakfast spots.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? I jump back and forth. I think about The European on Hanover Street, and for nostalgia, I’d like to see Caffe Italia. It was just a scene over there. Guys in the back playing pool, cigarettes everywhere. You can’t do that now. It’d be nice to see that place again.
Who was your most memorable customer? We opened up North Square Oyster this past May, and Maisie Williams from “Game of Thrones” came in. Arya Stark. It was cool to see her in person because she plays such a strong character on TV. She was just hanging out, a normal person. That was memorable for me.
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? I’d go to North Square Oyster. I’d start with a dozen oysters and a gin martini. My wife would have something sparkling. We’d split a bottle of rosé and a warm lobster roll. Oh, and some shrimp cocktail to start. That’s how I see it. It’s cool. You sit upstairs, at a banquette in the window, and look over the square. There’s something really charming about that. I said this to my wife, and she said, “Nick, it sounds like when we go out, all we do is drink!” It sounds like a great night to me.
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.