In the North End of today Frank DePasquale is the neighborhood’s man for all seasons. Among others, he is the North End’s most significant individual restaurateur, Italian artisan bread baker, gelati specialist, real estate developer supreme and above all, an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He does it all. He does all of it well. He is to the North End and its business community what Mayor Menino is to the people in this city.
During a brief early Monday morning interview conducted at his Hanover street restaurant Bricco, DePasquale was frank and open about his feelings for the North End and his role in determining whether or not the North End ultimately retains its charm.
Question: Who are your customers?
Answer: We cater to our neighbors and to the tourists that flock here and to the people of Boston who come to taste of the North End’s special treats. I’m especially honored so many North End residents eat in my restaurants. I’m honored by the locals coming in and feeling comfortable and enjoying great Italian food.
Question: How was business during 2011?
Answer: We had a great year – a big year. The recession isn’t ours. Our recession was caused by the Big Dig. Once that was completed, everything improved here. All of us in business in this great neighborhood are going gangbusters. Speaking for myself, I love what I do. I enjoy a challenge. Everything about operating here is a challenge. January can be a challenge if you own a restaurant here – but with the restaurant association helping out, we get through January and then we’re off to the races.
Question: Does a casino at Suffolk Downs help out or does it hinder? What’s your take?
Answer: I’m all for a casino at Suffolk Downs. I can’t wait for a casino to open. A casino at Suffolk Downs is a spark plug for tourism and it will also aid convention business coming to Boston, which is good for the North End. As long as the casino has a point system for local businesses the way it’s done in Las Vegas, everyone will benefit from a casino at Suffolk Downs.
Question: I hear you’re getting into the shellfish business. Is this true?
Answer: I am right now in the process of reinventing Ristorante Mare into the city’s best Oyster Bar and restaurant. Mare (located at the corner of Richmond and North Streets) will be serving Alaskan King Crab legs, oysters, cherrystones, little necks, shrimps – everything the shell fish lover is drawn to. We will do it well and we will do it right. Mare is going to shine.
Question: What’s with Bricco? Bricco appears to be your baby, so to speak. You’ve been paying a great deal of attention to Bricco and the property.
Answer: I love Bricco and everyone eating there loves it, too. I’ve got 18 years in at Bricco. I recently expanded the menu to include a steakhouse bill of fare. If Italian doesn’t wet your pallet, there’s a full menu of Black Angus beef. So now it’s a double option at Bricco – fine Italian or American style steakhouse. As for the property itself, I’ve spent the last year totally rehabilitating the properties which I purchased from the Nobile Family. I’m building 15 higher end monthly rentals in fully furnished units. Its going to be spectacular and the entire ground floor façade is being remade.
Question: Now you’ve become a baker. What about that?
Answer: I love bread and I love wine and now I’m busy baking great Italian bread. I have a great passion for bread baked the way it ought to be. The Bricco Panetteria makes fabulous Artisan Italian breads. They are superior in every way. The product speaks clearly for itself.
Question: What are you about?
Answer: I am a businessman but I am working hard and have spent nearly my entire adult life making sure the North End maintains its personality and traditions. I maintain local loyalties among residents and associates. I am the head of the Chamber of Commerce. Above all, I want to make sure the North End remains the safest neighborhood in the city with opportunities for everyone.