Restaurant Touts Fresh Ingredients

By MaryGrace Kelleher

Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 17, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Robert Hannagan works with his uncle, Tony Grillo, at his restaurant It’s Italian!
[MaryGrace Kelleher photo]

HAMPTON BEACH — Tony Grillo has been cooking the Italian recipes he learned from his mother and father for nearly 50 years.

Grillo creates traditional meals like chicken rosemary, lobster diavolo, eggplant parmesan and shrimp scampi for the restaurant It’s Italian! on Ocean Boulevard, owned by his nephew Robert Hannagan.

Grillo has been training Hannagan to cook the traditional family recipes for the past two years.

“He is as good as I am,” Grillo said.

Grillo isn’t new to the restaurant business. He said he has owned restaurants in California and Hawaii that attracted celebrities, including members of the Rat Pack.

Hannagan and Grillo pride the restaurant on its authentic and fresh cuisine. Grillo goes to the market every day and hand picks the produce used in the recipes. The meat is delivered fresh from Boston and the seafood is bought from local fisherman daily.

Hannagan has mastered the lunch menu that is popular for its meatball sub. The meatballs are made from scratch every day using 10 pounds of ground meat.

“The sandwiches are great,” Grillo said. “But the dinners are even greater.”

Grillo said he had to add more dishes to the dinner menu because Hannagan was learning the traditional meals so fast and well. Haddock and tomato basil and stuffed chicken with alfredo, mushroom, and spinach have been added to the menu.

The duo takes pride in their focus on fresh food. There are no microwaves or deep fryers in the restaurant. Herbs such as rosemary, basil and parsley are grown on the outdoor patio that serves as a dining area for customers.

“The only thing that I see on the stove is water for the pasta, olive oil for the veal and chicken, and sauce with meatballs,” Grillo said.

Grillo and Hannagan love to cook and create fresh, healthy meals for their customers.

“Every dish we cook here is our favorite,” Grillo said.

The restaurant offers indoor seating for 20 and outdoor seating for 14 on the patio. Italian beer and wine is offered, too.

It’s Italian!
Address: 23 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach
Phone: 603-926-8811
Hours: Daily 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Tony Grillo taught his nephew, Robert Hannagan, how to make his signature family dishes.
[MaryGrace Kelleher photo]
Robert Hannagan, owner of It’s Italian!, and Tony Grillo, uncle and cook, make meatballs daily from scratch.
[MaryGrace Kelleher photo]