Contractor Tom Silva has been bringing new life to old houses with his carpenter genius (and infinite supply of obscure tools and technology) on the PBS program This Old House for twenty-two years. Right now, This Old House is filming an eight month renovation of a 1935 artist’s cottage in Essex. To see Silva on the program is to learn there is a screw for every job, and he knows which one to use. With a sturdy build and generous mustache, the contractor walks up to a problem with quiet but iron command: here’s the problem; here’s what we’re going to do to fix it; here are the materials we need; watch me.
Of the Essex project, Silva says he loves the look, the transformation, and the fact that the homeowner is not tearing it down “and building a monstrosity.”
“We are caretakers of these old houses, and we should give them new life and take care of them. The details make the difference in these old places; we should renovate them right. If you can’t save the details, recreate them.
Tom Silva is no occasional visitor to Cape Ann: “My great-grandfather owned three schooners in Gloucester. I’m up there on a weekly basis.. My wife loves Lanesville.. eventually the North Shore will be my permanent home.”
Ask him what his favorite North Shore restaurant is, and he answers with the same authority with which he firms a shaky newel post, “Lograsso’s in Rockport.”
He’s quick to add The Gloucester House, Alchemy, Stones, The Rudder, and The Causeway, but clearly, when I asked, his heart spoke first.
“I love everything there,” Silva said about the Rockport restaurant serving traditional Sicilian cooking. “Last time I had the Seafood Mediterranean, with spicy clams, fish, lobster, and shrimp. I love spicy seafood; I can never choose one thing on a menu, so I like it when they put it all together.”
Indeed, Lograsso’s is many diners’ secret darling. For eighteen years in Rockport Sal Lograsso has been making puttanesca while his wife Donna has been smiling and doing everything else.
“She keeps us sharp,” Sal says. Donna’s smile is the face most people associate with Lograsso’s; Sal admits he’s the only one in the kitchen, and he rarely comes out.
His dishes are prepared with pride, Sicilian zest and a fundamental belief in food with character and taste.
“Traditional Sicilian cooking is very rustic and simple, not as refined as Italian cooking, but every bit as good.”
The corner post of the Isinglass mall, a tidy strip of businesses near Rockport’s train station, LoGrasso’s can’t flaunt a view, but no other North Shore restaurant welcomes you with cold San Pellegrino water and warm Alexandra’s Bread.
Many locals are still hungry for the great wax-paper wrapped Lograssos deli sandwiches dripping with Russian dressing and creativity, when Sal and Donna ran a deli by day and transformed the place into an Italian trattoria at night. The deli bowed to dinner, and the Lograsso’s decided to focus solely on Sal’s flavorful Sicilian home cooking. When Rockport allowed liquor to be served in its restaurants, Donna insisted that Sal NOT get a liquor license, knowing their customers loved the freedom and camaraderie, if not the reduced cost of a night out, born of a BYOB policy.
“We go where the people take us,” Sal says of his restaurant’s evolution.
People from Melrose to Rockport loyally make weekend reservations at Lograsso’s; Silva is just one of many enthusiastic fans.
Indeed, I dined at Lograsso’s this past Saturday; Tom Silva had been in the night before.
Sal Lograsso has generously shared Tom Silva’s current favorite dish, but Donna’s smile and the restaurant’s intimate, congenial atmosphere are worth racing with the contractor for a reservation.
Lograsso’s is open Wednesday through Saturday nights for dinner. Located at 13 Railroad Ave., Rockport, Lograsso’s is open 5 to closing, Wednesday through Saturday, year ‘round. 978-546-7977
Seafood Mediterranean (Grotta di Mare)
1 lb. linguini or any of your favorite pasta
32 oz. spaghetti sauce or prepared sauce
1 teaspoon fennel seed, whole or crushed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
pinch dried oregano (if fresh a little more)
1 cup white whine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Seafood: any kind of seafood that you like works well with this, but Lograsso lists:
1 pound of monkfish, cut into small cubes
1 cup minced clams with juice, fresh or canned works (save some juice for later)
2 lobster tails, cut lengthwise with shell on
8 ounces scallops
12 large shrimp
1 pound mussels
1/2 pound calamari, cut into strips or rings
In a large 4 quart pan, slowly heat oil. Add garlic and onions. Cook until garlic begins to brown, but doesn’t actually brown. Remove from heat. Add your favorite spaghetti sauce, wine and all the seasonings. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Again, remove from heat. Slowly add seafood. Stir. Bring to simmer and cook five minutes or until mussels are fully opened. If sauce is too thick, add some clam juice, pasta water or a little wine.
Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and place in a large bowl and pour the seafood over it. Or you can serve it as a soup or stew with your favorite crusty bread.
serves 4 (or 2 hungry people)