For some people, owning a restaurant is just a business. For Jim Rogers, it’s kin, which explains why after opening Andiamo Restaurant + Bar in Newburyport in 2012, the chef-owner expanded his clan this past June by opening Andiamo Restaurant + Bar in Chelmsford.
“I wanted to add more people to the restaurant family and branch out,” says Rogers, who got his first cooking job at Scandia in Newburyport. “When I was a young man, the social aspect of being in a restaurant was what was appealing. I came in, worked hard, and fell for the family aspect and then the culinary aspect. I saw the way Gordon [Breidenbach, chef-owner of Scandia] treated his staff and the way he took care of people. He was a real mentor and sort of father to me. In fact, he gave me my first car loan.”
Located in a brand-new building in a small shopping plaza, the Chelmsford Andiamo Restaurant + Bar seats 160 indoors and 60 outdoors on the side patio. The space differs considerably from the Newburyport location, which has seating for 110 inside a building dating back to the 1700s. Working with a design team and architect, Rogers masterminded all the details of the Chelmsford spot, which sports a spacious bar area on one side of the restaurant (a portion of which can be blocked off to create an event space) and a dining area on the other.
“It’s got a modern, contemporary look with high ceilings and an open kitchen,” says Rogers, “and is supposed to evoke a Mediterranean feel”—ergo the gray, teal, and stone-hued walls, flax-colored cushioned booths, and touches of chestnut-brown wood. To the left of the hostess stand sits the dining area. To the right you’ll find the central bar area, with counters and seating for thirty and tables and high tops scattered throughout the room.
As you might have guessed from the duplicate matching restaurant names—meaning “Let’s go!” in Italian—Rogers offers the same rustic, regional Italian menu at both locations, plus a few more options in Chelmsford, given its larger size.
Despite Rogers’s French, Irish, and English heritage, he developed a passion for Italian food in the late 1980s when sourcing ingredients and cooking equipment in Italy for Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta in Haverhill, where he oversaw production and purchasing. “I love Italian food,” says Rogers, grinning. “It’s based on such simple ingredients. I love to eat it, serve it, and what it’s all about.”
One of Rogers’s signature starters is his house-made veal, pork, and beef meatballs, which arrive three to an order in a sunny caramelized tomato ragù. The meatballs also appear on his pizza with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese, and as an option over pasta. Another popular starter is the antipasti tasting, which makes use of the shiny red Italian prosciutto slicer proudly displayed on the kitchen counter. In addition to velvety slices of Parma de Prosciutto, the plate holds other cured meats, roasted red peppers, olives, Parmigiano-Reggiano with truffle honey, and superb house-made burrata cheese. Rogers has mastered the art of making this luscious cheese that consists of a tender, milky mozzarella exterior filled with a soft, pudgy cream.
You’ll find other starters, too, including fried calamari with cherry pepper aioli, sirloin carpaccio with truffled arugula and shaved Parmesan, and roasted fall squash soup garnished with amaretti, honey, and more of that buttery burrata smeared onto crostini.
Thanks to a custom-built Marra Forni Italian wood- and gas-fired pizza oven, Rogers offers six crisp-crusted pizzas generous enough to serve as an entrée. In addition to the meatball pie, you’ll find one topped with grilled wild mushroom and duck confit and another with hand-crafted sausage, broccolini, homemade mozzarella, and Parmesan cream.
Given Rogers’s experience at Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta, it’s no surprise he offers over half a dozen pastas at the Chelmsford location. A snazzy imported Italian pasta-making machine helps craft his ravioli, along with various other pasta shapes. When asked to choose a favorite pasta, he doesn’t hesitate: “I love our Bolognese, which I’ve worked on over the years.” Made with ground beef, pork, tomatoes, veal stock, sautéed veggies, and a touch of cream, it arrives in traditional fashion over tagliatelle. Other pastas include semolina ricotta gnocchi with tomato sauce, duck rigatoni carbonara, and roasted butternut squash ravioli in a sage cream.
Then, of course, there are the entrées, ranging from grilled salmon with saffron-tomato risotto to veal marsala and chicken Parmesan, one of the most popular entrées at both locations. “It’s not too thin or thick,” says Rogers, referring to the juicy chicken cutlet. “We serve it with our own mozzarella and a pomodoro sauce made with roasted plum tomatoes.”
As with the food, Andiamo Restaurant + Bar’s wine menu is very approachable, concentrating on whites and reds, mainly from the United States and Italy. For cocktails, the list has over two dozen options, including the day’s specialty based on the house-aged bourbon resting on the bar in a tiny wooden barrel. While the restaurant does offer a handful of desserts, such as a chocolate truffle cake and seasonal berry bread pudding, you may opt to finish on a boozy note given such options as the Pumpkin Pie Martini, made from vanilla vodka, pumpkin puree, and spiced whipped cream.
Unlike its Newburyport counterpart, the Chelmsford Andiamo Restaurant + Bar offers lunch and Sunday brunch. Beyond a lunch salads, you’ll find panini and “The Burger,” a mix of ground chuck and short rib further enriched with pork belly, hazelnut butter, and sharp cheddar. The carefully edited brunch menu sports savory and sweet offerings, like steak and eggs and Nutella French Toast with caramelized bananas.
Having both restaurants share the same menu allows Rogers to interchange his cooks and staff without missing a beat. Although you would think having two eateries to manage would have doubled his work, “It actually has made life easier, owning two restaurants,” Rogers says, smiling. “When I had one restaurant, I was The Guy who opened the door for guests, seated them, cooked, and locked the door at the end of the night. Now, I have others doing that, so I basically live in the middle. I’m there for the lunch and dinner rush and then go home and rest.” It’s the joy of having such a large family.
Andiamo Restaurant + Bar
18 Boston Rd., Chelmsford