By Benjamin McNeil
If you’ve ever watched Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you know that dining establishments crumble when owners fail to retain quality employees, menus become overcomplicated and unfocused, and food quality suffers. Truth is, most restaurants close after being open just five years, and blond f-bombing Brits usually aren’t around to play savior. That makes the 25th anniversary of Carmella’s Italian Kitchen something to celebrate.
For the past 25 years, Carmella’s Italian Kitchen, located in Brookfield, has thrived by following a concise list of ingredients: an allegiance to traditional Italian cuisine, family ownership and operation and a constant love of feeding the thousands of patrons who have walked through the doors since 1987.
“I run [Carmella’s] how my mother and grandfather told me to. Keep it simple and keep it fresh. Offer good portions at a fair price,” explained Marty Fitzpatrick Jr., general manager at Carmella’s. Carmella Fitzpatrick, Fitzpatrick’s mother, opened her kitchen in 1987 and modeled it after The Italian Kitchen on Shrewsbury Street, formerly owned by her father, Gerald “Chubby” Panarelli.
Fitzpatrick never attended a formal culinary school ~ with Chubby teaching him how to make true Italian meatballs and sausage from scratch, there was really no need. Fitzpatrick continues to stuff sausage and bake bread and pizza dough in-house. Fitzpatrick also serves beef tripe, a dish deeply rooted in Italian tradition, which is mostly ordered by the eatery’s old-timers and those feeling adventurous.
As for his dinner, “I always make and eat chicken Parmesan. It’s real simple, and that’s what I like.” The Kitchen’s menu also features fried calamari, chicken marsala, tiramisu and a host of other mouth-watering comfort dishes.
You want to drink some cold ones in the lounge while watching the Bruins, but you crave something other than Italian? As an Italian-American restaurant, Carmella’s also offers chicken wings, bacon cheeseburgers and a variety of sandwiches, along with fish and chips every Friday. Does your sweetheart want to end the meal with something sweet? Enjoy some spumoni whipped up in-house.
You can also belt out your best impression of Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” with karaoke at Carmella’s every Thursday night. (Just remember that there can only ever be one Rat Pack.) Carmella’s has treated customers like family for the past 25 years. That won’t change.
Fitzpatrick doesn’t hesitate when defining his favorite aspect of Carmella’s. “I like the people. Their kids play soccer with mine, so why wouldn’t I treat them like family?”
No one leaves Carmella’s hungry. That and the family atmosphere have made the establishment a mainstay. And Fitzpatrick’s not concerned with becoming wealthy, he said. “I don’t think anyone’s getting rich. But everyone’s getting back what they’ve put into [Carmella’s].”
If you consider yourself a foodie (or your kids want to get out of the house), come enjoy Carmella’s.