Some long-surviving restaurants seem fossilized in amber: the décor, the menu, even the patrons look as though they haven’t changed in decades. On a 2007 visit, I was amazed at how exactly the Paddock resembled the Paddock I recall from 20 years ago, when it was a favorite of my Somerville-native boss. But change (a little, anyway) has finally come: former long-time chef Michael DaCova bought and re-opened the place recently, adding bright new paint and barstools but preserving the old horse-tackle décor.
Menu-wise, DaCova’s still dancing with the girl that brung him, serving large portions of Italian-American favorites, fried seafood (sautéed and baked, too), sandwiches, and pizza. Nightly specials allow him to express his Portuguese side in dishes such as a pretty authentic-tasting Portuguese pork soup ($3.25/cup; $4.25/bowl) with pork shoulder, kale, kidney beans, and bowtie pasta, served with warm rolls and butter. Long-beloved dishes are still there and very fine, like a plate of five huge marinated steak tips ($9.95) with heaps of fries (decent) and vegetables (frozen). A chicken piccata includes three big scallops of thin-pounded breast in a sauce that maybe could show clearer lemon and caper flavors, but you’d feel uncharitable pointing it out, given the price ($11.95) and size (it’s served over what must be a pound of linguine).
Pizza is quite respectable in the thin-crust, lightly sauced Neapolitan mode ($6.50/small cheese; $9.50/large); it ought to appeal to adherents of similar pies from better-known outlets, like the original Pizzeria Regina and Santarpio’s. A hefty garden salad ($3.25) is straight out of the ’50s: torn iceberg lettuce, prefab croutons, winter tomatoes, and too much dressing. The biggest surprise might be that prices are actually lower than those under previous ownership, making this a very family-friendly dining destination. If it’s a just world, locals will come here when they want a casual, reliable night out with inexpensive drinks and down-to-earth service, and shun those execrable casual-dining chains.
The Paddock, located on 249 Pearl Street, in Somerville, is open Monday and Tuesday, from 11 am to 10 pm; Wednesday through Saturday, from 11 am to 11 pm; and on Sunday, from noon to 10 pm. Call 617.628.6525.