By Seth Daniel
Whether it’s the reclaimed wood, the impressive skylights, or the delicious smells coming from the open kitchen, Charlestown’s newest restaurant on Main Street is causing a very positive stir in the community as the gap in dining options in the Town is further filled with good food and drink.
Monument 251, in the old Paolo’s location, opened only a few weeks ago after several months of construction, construction that expanded into the old laundromat and produced a very warm and smart looking interior full of natural light, reclaimed wood, a long bar, and a cozy dining area – all overlooking a very busy open kitchen where pizzas and unique plate options are prepared.
The restaurant is brought by four business partners who have been involved in the restaurant industry for some time and, having connections to Charlestown, saw a great opportunity to do something fun in the Town.
The four partners include Damien Donovan, a lifelong Townie who owned Paolo’s, Managing Partner Jon Sweeney, a Charlestown resident, Adam Hawk and Eric Aulenback.
“I always wanted to do something in the neighborhood I grew up in,” said Donovan, who grew up on Baldwin Street. “Adam and I had a small place before. Eric, John, Adam and I all knew each other from Lyons Group Management in Boston. We had the opportunity to acquire this space last year. We have always been friends and they jumped at the idea. They realized Charlestown has a lack of amenities (like restaurants). Despite us opening, it still has a lack of amenities. We all had the same vision for this. We wanted to put together a really good neighborhood place. The community has been great and extremely supportive. We’re obviously committed first to being good neighbors. We know the area and Adam used to live on Longwood Place, so we are very conscientious of the neighbors and noise.”
The hours include Monday through Thursday with the full kitchen open until 10 p.m. From 10 p.m. to midnight, it is open for pizza. On weekends, they are open for the full kitchen until 11 p.m., with pizza served until midnight.
He said you might just as well find a sippie cup in Monument as you would a pepperoni pizza – a nod to the families he said that have really responded to having a new neighborhood restaurant.
“You will see a sippie cup here, and we have a lot of Charlestown families coming in already,” Donovan said. “We do have a bar, but we are committed to the menu and the food. About 85 percent of the people who come are coming to dine. We’re focused on not just being in Boston, but being a Charlestown restaurant. It’s a priority of all of ours to be part of the community here. We just finished our second weekend with a brunch, and we’re certainly going to do a lunch eventually, but we’re holding off on that for now.”
The kitchen is likely one of the more impressive working spaces in the area.
Using the old wood-fired pizza oven from Paola’s, the owners uncovered the oven and painted it a brilliant fire engine red. Beside it is a busy, open prep space where all the action takes place.
Executive Chef Nicholas Dixon and Chef d’Cuisine Nick Panagos oversee the operation, and noted that the kitchen runs three deep.
“We’re actually going to expand it already,” said Panagos with a laugh. “I think we’re going to go downstairs with it.”
Said Dixon, “We knew it was going to be a busy neighborhood joint and we wanted to make sure the kitchen was built to keep cranking all day. We have a front kitchen, a back kitchen and the finish space up front.”
Both of the Nicks grew up in the restaurant industry, both working for their fathers in family-owned restaurants, and both knowing they wanted to work towards having their own restaurants one day. The two work really well together in bringing pizza, Italian, some Greek specialties and new twists on American comfort food. There are also many shared dish opportunities on the menu as well, they said.
All in all, Donovan said they are excited to bring a neighborhood restaurant that can be a place families and neighbors can congregate two or three times a week.
“The important thing for me was that this was a warm and inviting place,” Donovan said.