Merrimack Valley’s Taste of Sicily

By Kristen Carraher

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LaRosa’s front counter with menu

Four years ago Barnard Street welcomed its new, and growingly popular café/bistro, LaRosa’s. Right off of Main St., the shop is “old school,” manager Melissa Gauthier says. Paul LaRosa is from a “straight off the boat” Sicilian family, who has always held onto their strong roots of home-style cooking where his stay-at-home mom made sure to always have a good meal for her family.

While preparing for their opening, LaRosa says he ate at all the places around town trying to figure out what he wanted to serve, which worked out for the best. Tiffany Vin, 21, junior at Harvard University in Boston, MA, said she enjoys bringing friends to LaRosa’s.

“The food is fresh and delicious! The portions are perfect, and the crew is awesome, and welcoming,” adding that it’s somewhere she feels comfortable and she would go on weekends. The menu ranges from ‘signature sandwiches’ as they call them, to classic Italian dishes, to soups and salads.

photo%203As a teenager, striving for cash, LaRosa started working at restaurants, finding that he actually enjoyed the work.

“It’s easy to get a job at a restaurant,” he said, “I just kind of fell into it.” From there on, he knew that it was something he loved, something that he was interested in, “a hobby as well as a passion.”

Why Andover, though? For a Sicilian-American family, who first began living in New York, later in Boston, it seems random to bring the business up to the New Hampshire border.

Salsalitto Turkey ‘Signature Sandwich’

“It’s where the opportunity came,” he said honestly, mentioning that there were issues of becoming just another café in Boston, where every block has one or two cafés. Picking a suburban spot, with a vibrant, growing downtown seemed like a great start-up idea.

Over the years there have been many different changes to the look of LaRosa’s, from displays to full reconstruction for add-ons. Its owner likes to call it “a face-lift,” closer to a “Euro-bistro café look.” Recently, they’ve taken out a dessert display and replaced it with a customer-accessible bathroom, as well as a bar serving beer and wine. LaRosa mentions the crowd drawn in.

“You can have a lawyer in a suit, a bride-to-be that just got back from David’s Bridal down the street, and an elderly couple who come in for their 6pm dinner all in the same day.” While Gautheir, a Central Catholic graduate, and brief UMass Lowell student adds, “It’s a good place to network,” urging students to come grab a spot on the back outdoor patio and have a drink and lunch with a classmate.

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Beer and Wine Menu

LaRosa’s is very much family-oriented and owner operated. The type of place that know their customers by name.

“It’s all about the love, baby,” LaRosa jokes when talking about the reason he does what he does. It is about love and passion for a business, but it also comes down to good cooking, and as he said, even his parents approve.

Writer’s Memo: I wanted to write a piece that highlighted places that I liked to go. I was having lunch at LaRosa’s at the time and got up and started taking pictures, and then asked for an interview with the people behind the counter, those people being Melissa Gautheir, manager, and Paul LaRosa, owner. I understand that it’s very editorialized, which isn’t a good approach to journalism, but because the assignment was so open-ended I didn’t think it would become a problem. I felt like I did a good job in organizing my thoughts, and giving an idea of the type of people that you’d meet as a customer at LaRosas. There weren’t many changes in the second draft, my interview with the co-owner (mainly an investor) fell through, but I didn’t think that it effected to outcome of the article.

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