Hunter, Richard and Court Thomas, owners of 20 Brix in Milford, have done what any good financial manager advises: diversify. Last March they opened Padrino a few doors down from 20 Brix, extending Milford’s available restaurant options to a include a family-style, inexpensive Italian option.
Padrino occupies the space that formerly housed DeMeo’s, another family-owned Italian restaurant. Hunter says that after the former owner and the landlord approached him about opening a new restaurant in the space, he and the executive chef at 20 Brix Paul Barraco came up with a concept and recipes fairly quickly.
Padrino (pronounced “pad-reeno”) is Italian for “godfather,” and while the establishment riffs of this connection, the space doesn’t embody a “gangster” feel. It is, as one of my friends said, a bit homogenized. Not unpleasant — it was clean, well furnished and spacious — It just lacked the kind of character I would expect from the name. Somehow I feel a prick of disappointment when I go to a restaurant and find the same artwork hanging on its walls as my own walls. I guess it relates to the whole dining out experience: I like that I have a different view, and I don’t have to do dishes.
The service was a little spotty the night we had dinner at Padrino. Our host joked about putting us on the back patio when we asked for a kid-free zone. We were a little confused when we were led to a back room — it took us a minute to get the joke. And when our dinners arrived, we watched as they were delivered to the wrong table. The person that served our wine, however, was knowledgeable and friendly. He told us that we were lucky the church festival was going on down the street or the place would have been much more packed.
The food itself was good quality, stick-to-your ribs Italian fare. Padrino offers salads, subs, pasta and pizza. We started with some Garlic Knots — four baked rolls toasted with Parmesan cheese and olive oil ($2.50) and Parmesan Fries ($3.50), handcut fries tossed with grated Parmesan cheese and garlic salt. The fries were really good, but I could have eaten eight or 10 of the garlic knots. They were served in a plain brown paper bag.
(If I had known the meaning of “padrino” when we went for dinner I might have opened the bag with less gusto and more trepidation — if Luca Brasi would put a dead horse head in someone’s bed, what might he put in plain brown wrapping?). On follow up, Hunter said the presentation was Chef Barraco’s idea. It’s kind of a shake-and-serve rather than shake-andbake idea: Back in the kitchen they are adding the hot rolls, garlic and olive oil and shaking it all up in the paper bag before plating it with a side of marinara sauce.
For dinner we tried pizza and pasta variations. Always a sucker for Eggplant Parmesan, I indulged. Padrino’s dish ($10.50) was served as thick slices of egg plant covered in a sweetish marinara and mozzarella and came with the traditional side of spaghetti and marinara.
We also had the Spaghetti and Meatballs ($10) and an individual 10-inch pizza ($13.25) with pepperoni, fresh basil, garlic and anchovies. The pizza crust is the same as the one they serve at 20 Brix and was a big hit at our table. Hunter says people ask him if it’s New York or New Jersey or Chicago style. “It’s just pizza that I thought was good and my executive chef agreed,” Hunter says. It’s a thin, crunchy style.
The cuisine and executive chef aren’t the only Italian things about Padrino’s. The wine list is 99 percent Italian, but Hunter says they also carry common varietals so typical choices like Merlot and Cabernet are available. We chose a really nice bottle of Peppoli Chianti ($38). I’m not typically a big fan of Chianti; I find it to have a tinny taste. But maybe I’ve just had bad Chianti — this one didn’t have any of that and made a nice accompaniment to our meal.
The spaghetti and meatballs were a hit as well, with meatballs the size of your fist and homemade marinara sauce. My friend noted that the meatballs had been sautéed — always a sign of a good meatball, she confided. Full of bread and pasta, we skipped dessert and opted for a stroll through the gift shop area of 20 Brix to purchase more wine and wine accessories.
I don’t find myself in Milford often, but I if you’re a city-phite like me I’d recommend a daytrip that includes a stop at Padrino.