WHO’S IN CHARGE No doubt, owner Vinny Chiuchiolo is the man in the kitchen at the Blue Moon Grill, a popular breakfast/lunch spot on Main Street in Wakefield. “But I’m the cook at home,” says his wife and co-owner, Nancy. Vinny, born and raised in Boston’s North End, is a self-taught chef. “I loved cooking and always had a passion for it,” he said.
Over the years, Vinny perfected his techniques, working at a host of local Italian restaurants and advancing to sous chef at a 4-star establishment. In 2009, Vinny and Nancy both lost their respective day jobs. The Stoneham residents decided to open a restaurant.
“Let’s do breakfast,” Nancy suggested, even though Vinny had never cooked breakfasts, only dinners. In 2010, they turned their loss into gain, opening the Blue Moon Grill.
THE ATMOSPHERE Long lines of patrons often wait patiently under the blue-and-white awning. Navajo-red walls inside project a feeling of sincere warmth. “We want you to feel like family,” said Nancy. “Come in alone. You’ll feel like you’re in our home.” Peek through the open window to the tiny kitchen and watch Vinny and his assistant cooking. Above the window, a blackboard displays a patchwork of breakfast and lunch dishes printed in colorful chalk. Occasionally, Vinny takes a breather and walks through the restaurant, greeting customers like friends.
Open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Blue Moon Grill expanded in November into vacated space next door, increasing capacity from 28 to 50 seats. Plain wooden tables are easily rearranged to fit large parties. Last month, the Chiuchiolos extended hours for dinner Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 4 to 8 p.m.
ON THE MENU When is eating breakfast — at any time of day — not a good idea? There’s bacon and eggs, pancakes, waffles, cordon bleu crepes ($9) for explorers, and my favorite, Irish eggs Benedict ($11). Swapping out the traditional Canadian bacon, Vinny’s homemade corned beef hash adds a salty texture that meshes well with the generous serving of three traditional eggs Benedict topped with hollandaise sauce. Try substituting sweet potato hash browns ($3 extra) for the regular potatoes that come with the dish; lightly coated with brown sugar, they are like dessert. (I ordered some as takeout for the next day.)
One daughter tried the sunrise burrito ($9.25), and found it a lightly spicy twist on breakfast with a flour tortilla wrapped around a mix of scrambled eggs, black beans, onions, cheese, and peppers, then lightly grilled. Italian stuffed french toast ($10) was the other sweet-loving daughter’s choice, two slices of French toast with Nutella spread in between, topped with caramelized bananas.
One evening, one daughter and I returned for dinner. Neither of us had ever ventured past the breakfast portion of the menu on previous visits, and when we walked in, we were of the mind-set of eating breakfast for dinner (a fun thing we do at home when I’m tired of cooking). But two items on the lunch side of the menu caught our eye: chicken piccata ($14) and homemade sausage, peppers, and onions ($10). We also split a Caesar salad ($6.50). Full, we packed leftovers to take home.
New on the menu are the four to six Italian dinner specials, all in the $15 range. Big hits include two new appetizers, shrimp marnier and fried ravioli (both $10).
Vinny says customers tell him, “I didn’t know you can do that.”
Blue Moon Grill, 955 Main St., Wakefield. 781-245-4470, www.bluemoonwakefield.com
Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.