Visit Boston’s historic North End and you’ll be hard-pressed to miss Ristorante Lucia, a neighborhood fixture on Hanover Street since the eatery first opened in 1977. It is owned and operated by Filippo Frattaroli and Filmark Hospitality Group; the group also runs Ristorante Lucia of Winchester Center, which has been a well-known restaurant in the town since first opening in the mid-1980s.
Frattaroli emigrated to Boston from the Abruzzo region of Italy in 1970 and made the decision to emphasize authenticity and quality of cuisine when opening Lucia “When I opened Lucia I was just 23, it was a huge financial risk for me,” says Frattaroli. “Before long, my parents, brothers, and sisters came to worked for me, so I felt pressure to make sure we succeeded in this business and in this country. I knew that success would take working seven days a week and serving quality, honest food like we grew up with in Abruzzo. Nearly forty years later, some things never change.” Drawing inspiration from central Italy, both Lucia locations take great care in presenting food reflective of the region. Frattaroli makes frequent trips back to Sulmona, Italy, and his mission to serve genuine Italian dishes is one taken so seriously by the Frattaroli family that they recently started commissioning and importing cheese from Italian cheesemaker Marcelli Formaggi from the mountains of Abruzzo directly to their restaurants.
The restaurants are named after Frattaroli’s mother, Lucia, and for this family the restaurant business is very much a family affair. Filippo’s wife, Anna, has long been involved in all of their restaurants and also handles many behind-the-scenes business needs. Their four children, Philip, Daniella, Jessica, and Mark, all grew up working in Lucia’s. The couple’s oldest son, Philip, opened his own restaurant, Ducali Pizzeria & Bar, found in the North End on Causeway Street, in 2009, and he also owns the soon-to-open gastropub Cunard Tavern in the Jeffries Point neighborhood of East Boston. Set to open in early 2017, Cunard Tavern will occupy the very same space that Philip’s own grandfather worked out of as a cabinetmaker for over half a century.
“Last spring, my father and I teamed up to reacquire his original restaurants, Ristorante Lucia in Winchester and Boston,” says Philip Frattaroli. “For me it has been a dream come true. With Ducali I was on my own, and we were writing it as we went. But now with Lucia, I get to collaborate with my father on these restaurants, while paying homage to the legacy of what he created. I feel privileged to help lead them into their future, because they mean so much to me.”
While food (and, OK, some really good wine) is the core element of all their restaurants, the family emphasizes that their ties to the communities they are located in cannot be overstated. In the North End, the family and their businesses have become integral pieces of the neighborhood; most recently the Frattarolis organized a fundraiser to benefit victims of the earthquake that hit central Italy this summer. In Winchester, you’d have difficulty finding someone not familiar with Ristorante Lucia or Filippo and Anna, who spent many years raising their four children in the town.
Family is one of the reasons that Philip found himself in the restaurant business, despite his original plans to pursue a career in law. Incredibly, he took the bar two weeks after opening Ducali, a footnote that would later serve as a great indicator of how well he would do as a multi-tasking restaurateur. The turning point for Philip, and his family, came in the fall of 2008, when Filippo and Anna’s youngest son, Mark, was killed in a car accident. As Philip recalls, it was Mark who was especially interested in the restaurant business, and he likes to think this is the line of work Mark might have pursued. This, and the 2008 economic downturn, placed Philip at a crossroads. By his own admission, the restaurant business was not his “planned path,” but “it was exactly” what he needed. And so, with no small amount of trepidation, he bet on his own pizza and craft beer restaurant concept, recognizable today to loyal patrons as Ducali. As his father describes it, “Philip, with his legal education, background in our restaurants, and work ethic, understands the blend of art and science that is this industry better than anyone else I’ve ever come across. A few weeks ago, we were working on something long after the restaurant closed, just him and I, and I thought to myself, ‘I never thought I would be working side by side in this business 40 years later with my son.’”
Maybe it is in the DNA, as extended family members are the proprietors behind other familiar Boston area restaurants, but one thing is for sure: The Frattaroli family is doing something right. Lucia in the North End will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year, and their Winchester location has passed the 30-year mark and continues to attract a steady crowd, especially since expansive renovations were unveiled earlier this year. Noting a need to keep up with customer dining preferences, Frattaroli cites the redesigned bar with additional seating and new café windows that let in the sights and sounds of downtown Winchester.
“There’s nobody who knows more about Italian food than my father,” says Frattaroli, and while their restaurants always strive to remain current and make note of diner preferences, such as gluten-free and other dietary accommodations, the family’s commitment to authentic Italian food and giving back to the communities of which they are a part will always remain a core tenet.
13 Mt. Vernon Street, Winchester