Published in the June 10, 2016 edition
By GAIL LOWE
MELROSE — Have you “smelled” the news?
On Monday, May 23, restaurateur Richard Talieri opened Giacomo’s at 454 Main St. to wide acclaim.
The restaurant is the third one bearing the same name and is a “close relative” of two others, one in the North End of Boston and one in the South End.
“The first week was ‘crazy,’” said Talieri, adding that dozens of people were lined up outside waiting for a seat. An 80-hour work week has been the norm for Talieri since opening day.
“Everyone has been so supportive,” said Talieri. “We’ve received lots of flowers from businesses along Main Street. People have been very, very nice.”
As you approach Giacomo’s in Melrose — only a short distance from the corner of West Wyoming Street — the aroma of garlic and other wonderful cooking smells rise in the air to whet your appetite. And that’s just the beginning. Inside, the space, formerly occupied by the owners of Absolutely Fabulous, is warm and inviting. For instance, the underside of the bar at the rear of the restaurant has been outfitted with a string of lights that change color, from cobalt blue to ruby red and regal purple. The result: Gorgeous!
The footprint of the restaurant, said Talieri, has remained the same as Absolutely Fabulous and no changes had to be made to gas lines or plumbing.
“Uncle Jack” Giacomo, owner of the original Giacomo’s in the North End circa 1980s, got involved and designed the interior.
The restaurant, which could be described as casually elegant, is a long, rectangular space with approximately 15 tables set with white plates and linen napkins. A mix of Renaissance and modern art adorn the walls. Several tables have been placed at the front of the building and in the warmer months the windows can be fully opened to let in fresh air.
“I’ve limited entry to the side of the building so people seated near the sidewalk and front door don’t have to be constantly interrupted by people coming and going,” said Talieri. Smart move on his part, since during the winter months cold air also comes with foot traffic.
Talieri said he partnered with his “Uncle Jack” and lifelong Melrose resident Joe Dinninello. The three men hope that Giacomo’s will be as successful as the North and South end restaurants. Talieri has plenty of restaurant experience under his belt, having worked for 22 years at both locations in Boston before opening in Melrose. (The family also owns Panza, on Hanover Street in Boston, and Anchovies in the South End.)
Giacomo’s lovely interior design belies the prices listed on the Southern Italian menu, which are reasonable, given the quality and quantity of food served. (Talieri pointed out that to keep the atmosphere casual, he opted for plastic menus rather than cumbersome book-type menus that end up taking too much space on tables.)
Here’s a peek at the menu: Antipasto ($12) includes cured Italian meats, cheese and rotating accompaniments, such as artichokes, sliced olives and roasted red peppers.
Lemon fettucine with grilled shrimp and scallops, with asparagus, tomato and sage in a white wine broth ($18).
Butternut squash ravioli with asparagus, prosciutto, squash puree and mascarpone cream sauce ($16).
Squid ink pappardelle with swordfish and tuna in a puttanesca sauce ($18).
Fruit di mare with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and calamari ($20).
Vegetarian fusilli Siciliani with eggplant, onion, mozzarella and plum tomatoes ($15).
Grilled beef tenderloin ($20).
A glass of wine, red or white costs $6 and a bottle is priced at $18. Soda is $1 and San Pellegrino is $3.
Michelle Marcoulier stayed on with Talieri as bartender and general manager after Absolutely Fabulous closed its doors.
“Michelle got to know the clientele over the past four years. She knows their preferences. She knows what they’ll order without even having to ask,” said Talieri.
The owner of the new Giacomo’s grew up in Stoneham and lived in Boston for a time, but now he and his wife Danielle and three children Francesca, 6, and twins Rocco and Matteo, 3, live in Melrose. Danielle, too, is very supportive of her husband’s efforts.
While a visitor was talking with Talieri around noontime last Friday, people were coming through the side door eager to sample Giacomo’s food.
Unfortunately, Talieri had to turn them away. “We’re not offering lunch just yet,” he said, “but we will be in a few months.”
“Well,” said one would-be patron, “it can’t come soon enough.”
Giacomo’s is open seven days a week. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; Thursday through Saturday 4 p.m. to midnight and Sunday 4 to 9:30 p.m. Credit cards or cash accepted. First come, first served.