Grazie still thankful for community support
Regulars still keep Italian eatery humming after four years - even when the sauce doesn't taste like their grandmother's
NORTH ADAMS — When Grazie Italian Ristorante opened in February 2016, co-owners executive chef Matthew Tatro and David Moresi stressed the restaurant's primary focus would be providing an affordable and accessible dining experience for local residents.
"The tourists are going to come by default, but this is really for the locals," Moresi said, noting the Marshall Street eatery's proximity to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, during a 2016 interview.
Now entering its fourth year, Tatro, who also owns the neighboring Tres Ninos Taqueria, says Grazie's success is a result of the community's continued support.
"We've really been made to feel like we're a welcome addition in my native city," he said. "We have a great staff, with a low turnover rate, who really embrace our regulars. It's a small community, so our staff gets to know our customers. We try to do everything with an old-fashion, personal touch. We intentionally try to do as much in person as possible."
In return, Tatro, a graduate of Drury High School, said he takes great pride in the restaurant being able to give back to the community, supporting local organizations through donations and taking an active role in providing meals as part of local food chains.
"I strongly believe that if you have the ability to do so [to help out], that you should," he said. "Around Christmas, we made a dozen meals that were sent out to families, nominated by our Facebook followers, who could use a little pick-me-up around the holidays."
His ideals cross over into Grazie's "scratch kitchen," where an emphasis is put on using as many fresh local ingredients as possible.
"We do our best to use local businesses as much as possible," Tatro said. "We utilize local farms, like Chenail's Farm. We use their seasonal produce whenever we can. They're our customers and come in about twice a week. They're eating the vegetables grown on their own farm. It's almost like the old days with the old barter system."
Fresh and local ingredients are a key component to running a "scratch kitchen," he said.
"We're bringing in raw ingredients to make our dishes. We don't get our chicken that's already breaded. We're breading the chicken in our kitchen," Tatro said. "We're making the sauces and all the desserts, except for the gelato, which we subcontract with Hot Tomatoes."
The menu, he said, has something for everyone, including gluten-free patrons, who will find almost any dish on the menu can be made into a gluten-free pasta dish.
One might consider Tatro to be brave to open an Italian restaurant in a city that boasts a large population of second-, third-generation and fourth-generation Italian Americans. But, he says, he's not intimidated by that fact.
"Every Italian family has one way to make gravy/red sauce. And that way is the right way to make it. Everyone's grandmother makes the best sauce. I can't beat anyone's grandmother's sauce. That's just a fact," he said. Tatro spent a decade in Boston where he trained to become an executive chef before returning to the Berkshires. Prior to opening Grazie in 2016, he was the executive chef at the Adams Ale House.
"I'm confident in my cooking and in my training. I trained under a James Beard chef. I take great pride in the quality of my work. We know who we are and we know what our strong points are."
And while his sauce might not be as good as your grandmother's, Tatro strives to make the next best thing in his kitchen — a bolognese that's also his favorite thing to make.
"I like the whole process — cooking down the carrot, onion, celery and garlic, adding in the red wine and the meats," he said of the meat sauce. "It takes time to simmer it and there are a lot of critical points along the way. It's one of my favorite dishes on the menu."
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