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Don’t skip the risotto at Raso’s in Medford

The Black Angus sirloin with asparagus, mashed potatoes, and a red wine demi sauce. Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe

WHO’S IN CHARGE Raso’s Bar & Grille was launched in 2005 by lifelong Medford resident Richard Raso, who had previously run a canteen business and wanted to open a restaurant. He did, and largely built it himself. He just couldn’t figure out what to call the place and ended up using his family name. With him from the beginning has been restaurant manager Peter Fuccione, and the chefs are brothers Thiago and Phillip Teixeira.

THE LOCALE After dark, this section of Mystic Avenue in Medford has the aura of an urban desert, with chock-a-block roofing and plumbing supply stores, car rentals, and check-cashing services. Interstate 93 runs nearby, humming with the stream of cars going elsewhere.


But what’s this? An oasis in an industrial zone? A blue beacon — the neon sign of Raso’s Bar & Grille — signals that here is a spot for drink, food, and neighborhood cheer. Raso’s — which has occupied this spot for more than 10 years — is a gem hidden in plain sight: good, hearty meals, an unpretentious setting with reasonable prices, just across the street from Jiffy Lube.

The cozy bar area, bathed in the glow of high-definition TVs, welcomes locals, who might be sipping a glass of wine or craft cocktail as often as a beer while watching the game. There is also a plain and serviceable dining area and — in warmer weather — an outside patio. Perhaps Raso’s is not the kind of place to bring a date you want to impress. But it’s the place to bring your buddies to hang out at the bar or your mom to sample the Italian-American-influenced menu.

ON THE MENU About a year ago, Raso says, the menu was changed for the first time in nine years. Because, well, if it ain’t broke . . . you know the rest. But Raso’s emphasis continues to be on classic Italian-American dishes, well-cooked steaks and pork chops, and a variety of specialty pizzas.


The first indication of unexpected quality came when our group received the requisite basket of bread. The thick slices were chewy with a crispy crust, indicating this was no afterthought. Raso’s also knows how to do vegetables; our side dishes of green beans and asparagus were wonderfully undercooked for flavor and snap.

A signature dish, gorgeous to behold, is Pauli’s pollo ($19), with chicken and mushroom risotto. The generous slice of chicken was moist and flavorful and the risotto creamy and rich, not cloying. (Indeed, Raso’s seems to have a knack for risotto.)

Another signature dish is the Mafalda Bolognese (ribbon pasta with meat sauce, $17), and frequently winning kudos is the Black Angus sirloin steak ($29), known for its huge portion. Vegetarians can indulge in the grilled eggplant and zucchini ($14), while meat lovers would be satiated with the barbecue sirloin tips ($18).

Raso’s pasta ranges from basic baked penne ($13) to spaghetti limoncello ($20 chicken, $22 shrimp.) Likely the menu will stick around for the next nine years because, well, it just ain’t broke.

Raso’s Bar & Grille, 209 Mystic Ave., Medford, 781-396-2001, www.rasosgrille.com.

Stephanie Schorow can be reached at sschorow@comcast.net.