Brothers Jeff and David Malloy opened Pazzo Pizza Co. in mid-February, right on Main Street in Andover. Its sleek curved bar, sculptural communal table, and big open kitchen—starring a pizza oven imported from Italy—were all designed to invite casual gatherings over great food.
“Italian family sports bar is the concept we were going for,” Jeff Malloy says. He adds, “We opened to really great reviews. It was a family atmosphere from five o’clock to seven, and then we started building a nice bar business in the evening.”
Then they closed. Just four weeks after opening, Governor Charlie Baker shuttered Pazzo, and every other nonessential business in Massachusetts, in an attempt to stifle one of the earliest outbreaks of coronavirus in the country.
After three months of only offering takeout, the Malloys gratefully set out tables in an area the city provided for outdoor dining in June, and have steadily seen takeout customers return to dine in. “We’re building back up, with more clientele every day,” as rules allow increased indoor dining, Jeff says.
Since he has previous experience co-founding and heading up the kitchen at Carmen’s and Hot Tomatoes, restaurants in Boston’s North End that drew numerous accolades, it’s no wonder people keep coming back for Malloy’s food. The menu runs the gamut from slow-roasted chicken wings marinated in balsamic vinegar and lemon zest to an impressive array of salads and overstuffed sandwiches, and, of course, gourmet pizzas topped with everything from spicy soppressata to shrimp scampi.
Andover residents are strong supporters of area small businesses—and this isn’t the first time they’ve been tested in recent memory. In 2018, gas was shut off to many restaurants for weeks—and in some cases months—after over-pressurized lines caused a series of explosions.
But the town’s long history of local loyalty helped mainstays survive and thrive: Palmer’s Restaurant, with its classic American fare, Yella Grill, with its Mediterranean regional food, La Rosa’s, with casual Italian, and Elm Square Bistro, where chef Michael Sherman crafts New American cuisine, have all marked more than a decade in business, despite the challenges. That’s an important milestone in an industry where more than half close within the first year, and 80 percent within the first five. And a credit to the Andover community, which puts an emphasis on supporting local.
The community was a big draw for Marcus Palmer, who opened the soaring steakhouse Smythe & Dove last fall, with a menu much broader than in a classic beef palace. “I love being part of a community,” says Palmer, who built a replica 1800s-era barn, complete with a loft and a cathedral ceiling, to house his new venture. But while Palmer’s resume includes opening a number of high-flying steakhouses, like the Smith & Wollensky that was housed in a Boston castle, his vision for Andover is more down-to-earth.
“The space is versatile,” Palmer says. “If you just want to come in shorts and a T-shirt and have a burger, come into the bar. If you want to dress up a little, upstairs feels a bit more formal. We tried to make something for everyone.”
It’s not just the space that welcomes all comers—the menu spans everything from spicy hummus, topped with grilled shrimp and served with pita bread, to tacos and there is even a buttermilk chicken sandwich. Meat lovers will find the steak frites a treat at under $30, and a 14-ounce sirloin for under $40.
And that’s right about where the menu tops out. Because Palmer hopes the restaurant won’t just be thought of as a place for special occasions, the prices are mostly in the $20 range, with many items even less, rather than the 40-dollar-plus range typical of a steakhouse. And families are welcome. “I have kids,” he says. “I always design restaurants for families, too.”
Offering a place for families—one where parents can get terrific cocktails—is also a hallmark of Andiamo, which opened in Andover in August. “We saw a need for a great restaurant,” says chef/owner James Rogers, who lives just four minutes away. It’s a great fit for his neighborhood, he adds. “As a chef, I thought this area needed more dining options.”
To that end, the restaurant has a café that provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, offering a place for neighbors to gather over coffee or for associates to meet for an informal business lunch. “The café provides local businesses an option for coffee and a breakfast sandwich in the morning and a place to conduct business during the day or night,” Rogers explains.
Like the Chelmsford Andiamo location, Andover offers Sunday brunch with a day-drinking-inspired cocktail program, and will host live music once it is safe to do so. “As soon as we can, we would like to explore music,” Rogers says. “Music has been very successful for us in our Chelmsford location.”
The two restaurants also share similar food offerings, like Polpettoni meatballs made with veal, pork, and beef, Bolognese alla tagliatelle, butternut squash ravioli, and grilled scallops and shrimp with lemon spinach risotto.
Andover’s gain is Newburyport’s loss—the chef shuttered his Newburyport Andiamo location in June because of the pandemic. “It was a very difficult decision to make,” Rogers says of the spot, which had operated in a charming low-ceilinged historic home since 2013.
Everyone pulling together is what will help restaurants survive now—and eventually thrive, as Smythe and Dove’s Palmer says. “Right now, for restaurants, it’s really hard,” he says, noting that he is grateful for the support of his landlord and the community. “Our goal is to get through this hard year and think long-term.”