Wakefield’s culinary scene just got better. Anthony Caturano, chef and owner of Prezza and Tonno, has opened a third restaurant in Wakefield, located in the luxury mixed-used development called Wakefield Station just across from the MBTA stop.
Tonno Wakefield brings a new level of sophistication to the Wakefield dining scene within a framework of Italian favorites. The 4,100-square-foot space—with an outdoor patio for alfresco dining and a 65-seat private dining room for special events—has a lively atmosphere and a décor that is contemporary and fresh, with ocean accents woven in.
“The opportunity presented itself and we went for it,” says Caturano whose restaurants Prezza (a popular classic dining destination in the North End) and the original Tonno in Gloucester have won awards for their Italian spin on seafood dishes. Tonno Wakefield’s menu and wine list will mirror Gloucester’s cuisine. Chef Neal Maver will head up the kitchen in Wakefield, while chef Aaron Budak—previously at Townsman—will replace Maver in Gloucester. Maver and Budak spent years together working at Gaslight restaurant.
Tonno, Italian for “tuna,” (and also the name of the chef’s boat, which is moored in Gloucester Harbor), brings together chef Caturano’s favorite Old World culinary styles, with nightly specials that reflect the catches of the day from the local waters. The menu is composed of an array of “sfizi” and “primi” dishes—small bites to start off the meal; homemade pastas are available in half and full portions; “secondi” courses of “pesce” and “carne” signature dishes; and decadent desserts.
Grab a seat at the bar and sample some small plates with a glass of Italian wine or a signature cocktail, such as the tonno tartare, and the octopus, potato, and black olive salad. Or try some dishes from land, which include the meatballs and ricotta and the meat board with chicken liver mousse, pork pate, prosciutto, and taleggio, a semisoft Italian cheese. Tonno’s Facebook page also features daily specials. (For example, the day I am writing this piece, Tonno is featuring eggplant parmesan as the daily special starting at 4 p.m.)
Italian seafood dishes such as cioppino, which is a rich fish stew, scallops la plancha (or grilled scallops, seared just right on the outside with sweet meat on the inside), and roasted cod orenganata are flavorful and cooked to perfection, but perhaps the most popular seafood dish here is the grilled Tonno steak served with white beans. During the fishing season, Caturano can be found out on his boat occasionally catching tuna himself off the shores of Gloucester. The seafood is so fresh because he often buys it back right off the dock and it goes straight to his kitchen.
The pasta is another not-to-be-missed course as Tonno serves four pasta dishes just right; orecchiette with rabe and sausage, tagliatelle Bolognese, done in a light fennel cream sauce, spaghetti fra diavolo, with shrimp, and bucatini alla cabonara. As mentioned earlier all pastas are house-made, and Caturano has mastered pasta making.
Not to be outdone by the seafood menu, grilled steaks and chops are equally as flavorful. The grilled ribeye is lightly seasoned—just enough flavor to enhance the juicy meat without overwhelming the charred goodness. A simple side of rabe and roasted potatoes allows the steak to take center stage. Veal Milanese is a classic on the menu, as is the thick grilled pork chop.
Classic Italian cocktails, a selection of craft beers, and a list of 150 wines that is focused on Italian varietals are on offer. Round out your evening with a “dolci,” an Italian sweet such as tiramisu, cannoli, or biscotti.
When asked “Why Wakefield?” Caturano explains that he used to live in Saugus and loves the community and, well, the opportunity presented itself to open a third restaurant. “We just want to be a neighborhood place serving really great food,” he says. I can assure you that he has done just that.
175 North Ave