Editor’s Note: For this week’s column, we sat down with Paul Delios, who recently returned to his roots of running a restaurant. He opened Paolo’s on Feb. 1, trying to replicate the original Paolo’s he ran in Charlestown for several years. He’s the former president and co-owner of Kane’s Donuts, a business that his late dad began about six decades ago. He talked about his career as an accomplished chef, a book called “At The Greek Table” and some of his recipes. DeLios, a 1979 Saugus High School graduate, was born in Lynn, grew up in Saugus and is a Wakefield resident. He has been married for 25 years to Jean (Johnson) Delios, who retired as town manager in Reading. She was previously town planner in Saugus (1993-2003). He took courses at Salem State College, but didn’t complete his degree. Earlier in his life, Paul Delios took a course through the American Quality Control Society that helped him get certified as a quality control engineer in the computer industry. While living in his hometown, Delios was active in Saugus local government, serving on the Conservation Commission and three terms as a Town Meeting member representing Precinct 3.
According to the book that includes Delios’ recipes, he has spent his life in the restaurant and food service industry and has a talent for creating timeless Mediterranean recipes, developed from his family’s deep-rooted relationship with food. He earned his restaurant training at three restaurants his family owned in and around Boston, as well as at his own company : Rosamarina’s Catering, which began in 1990. Meze Estiatorio, the 230-seat restaurant he opened with investors in 2003, became Boston’s premiere Greek restaurant. In 2004, he began a professional relationship with Culinary Entertainment Group’s Simon Malls’ “Super Chefs Live!” tour. He later appeared with Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS’ “Ciao Italia”; Guy Fieri, Jacques Pepin and Martin Yan. In 2007, he took over the daily operations of his family’s donut shop on Lincoln Avenue in Saugus. Under his management, Kane’s has consistently been named one of the nation’s 10 top donut shops by MSNBC, Bon Appetit magazine and the Travel Channel’s Donut Paradise. In 2014, Kane’s expanded with a second donut shop at International Place in Boston’s financial district along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. In 2009, he teamed up with Fotios Stamos to publish his recipes at AtTheGreekTable.com, leading to the publishing of the cookbook that bears that name.
Q: When did you launch your restaurant career?
A: I started working in my dad’s restaurant, peeling potatoes when I was four. But, officially, it was in 1995. I had a restaurant in Lynn at the Gannon Golf Course, and I had the original Paolo’s in Charlestown, which started in 1999. And I opened up Meze Estiatorio in 2003 and it later became Boston’s premiere Greek restaurant.
Q: How did you arrive at this location in Saugus, at 304 Lincoln Ave., and how long have you been here?
A: Paolo’s opened up here officially on Feb. 1. There have been a handful of establishments at this location – roast beef and pizza shops. It dawned on me that Saugus needed a good Italian restaurant on this side of town, so I felt as though having grown up in East Saugus that a void needed to be filled. All too often in today’s day and age, families have grown up going out to the chain restaurants and not experiencing what authentic cuisines taste like. And given that I’ve grown up on this side of Saugus, a part of town with a rich Italian heritage, I felt it would be a no-brainer to open up a restaurant that embraces and embodies the cuisine of Italy.
I feel very confident about it because I know my way around the Italian kitchen. In 2003, I was asked by the Italian Culinary Institute to come and cook for them in New York City. I’ve cooked in several different places and have cooked with a number of chefs, whether New York City, Chicago, Naples, Florida, Los Angeles …any number of places. The other thing that made this so easy for me – I know so many people in Saugus. Being here in Saugus is always like having a loved one’s arms wrapped around you. I feel very comfortable here, because it’s where I grew up.
And in the short time we’ve been open, we’ve already begun replicating the old menu of the original Paolo’s, but we’re also adding to it.
Q: So, what are you cooking up?
A: We’re doing steak tips, because it’s more of a North Shore item. Steak tips grew out of poverty – basically Italian immigrants who took lower cuts of meat and seasoned them and made them very palatable. It was more of a North Shore item. Now it’s popular throughout New England, but it’s more popular here; but if you go to other parts of the country, you won’t find steak tips.
Q: So, do they still use lower cuts of meat?
A: It used to be lower cuts back at its inception. But today we use sirloin.
Q: Please tell me a little bit more about what makes Paolo’s special.
A: We also feature fresh pastas and pizza. Our friends over at Lilly’s in Everett make the pasta for us: Lilly’s at 208 Main St., Everett.
Q: Please tell me about your staff.
A: On any given night, there will be at least 10 people working here. It could be upwards of 12.
Q: What is the seating capacity?
A: It’s 50 people. When we were in Charlestown, it was 48.
The old Paolo’s is now Monument Tavern. I worked at the original Paolo’s in Charlestown for seven years: from 1999 to 2006. We brought back an old favorite in Charlestown – lamb shank – 28 ounces. The bone probably weighs more ounces. We have the MVP pork chop, which is two ribs thick – served with vinegar peppers, onions and roasted potatoes. It’s a classic New England–style dish. The other dish we’re doing – a Piedmontese sirloin filet. It comes from cattle raised in Italy. It’s served with a piece of bone marrow, grilled asparagus and roasted potatoes with a marsala peppercorn sauce. We also do a little healthier version of a Polenta dish, which is traditionally served with sausage, but we serve it with grilled shrimp and caper sauce. It’s a little more healthier.
Also on the more decadent side, we have Botto-Botto, which means bong bong calamari, that’s drizzled with a sweet Balsamic vinegar glaze and garlic aioli. It’s absolutely delicious.
Q: Please tell me more.
A: We have our Neapolitan pizzas – 12 inch pizzas. They’re not wood-fired but bake off in a gas-powered Heath oven. We also have salad dressings available for takeout. We have our homemade pasta sauces, whether it be marinara or Bolognese.
Q: And, what else can you tell me about the special food preparation that goes on here?
A: Our focus is to try to use as much fresh and local ingredients as possible. This is the same philosophy I’ve carried forward in all of the ventures I’ve had over the years. I truly believe that we should know the source of the products and the supplies. By doing so, it translates into healthier, more affordable, quality-oriented products for the consumer. For instance, the tomatoes come from a farm in Maine. I make the bread fresh every day. And the pasta is local. We feature Vanilla ice cream from Richardson’s with our bread pudding. We do fresh and local as much as we can. It’s the best recipe for success.
Q: What’s your work schedule like?
A: I’m 62 years old now. At the donut shop, I was putting in 80 to 90 hours a week. Today, it’s nine- to ten-hour days six days a week for about 60 hours total. We are closed on Sunday. Our staff consists of eight full-timers and six part-timers.
Q: What else?
A: The flour is imported from Italy. The mozzarella is domestic.
Q: What is your most popular dish?
A: Our most popular dish is probably Chicken Bana Stana – an organic chicken breast with spinach-prosciutto, with mushrooms, mozzarella cheese and roasted potatoes.
Q: What is your second most favorite dish?
A: Ultimate Chicken Parmigiana. And our most favorite pizza is Pepperoni. That cups up a little when it’s cooked in the oven. Our most popular pasta dish is Chicken Broccolini and Ziti. The broccolini is a thin broccoli. The second most popular pasta dish would be the Shrimp Scampi with Jumbo Shrimp.
Q: As an accomplished chef, do you play a key role in the kitchen?
A: On the weekends, I’m behind the lines, banging it out. During the week, I’m in and out, making sure everything is running smoothly.
Q: What is your most popular desert?
A: Bread pudding, followed by tiramisu.
Q: What are your hours?
A: Five to nine on Monday through Thursday and 5 to 10 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Q: Do you have any longtime people on your kitchen staff?
A: I’ve got one guy who has been with me from the original restaurant.
Q: Do you have any loyal followers from the original Paolo’s?
A: On the first night that we were open, we had people from the original Paolo’s.
Q: So is this restaurant where you are going to wrap up your career?
A: I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon. Hard work never killed anyone.
Q: What’s the age range of your kitchen staff?
A: The youngest is probably in the early 20s and I’m probably the oldest.
Q: Are you still active with Kane’s Donuts?
A: Because it’s in litigation, all I can tell you is that I resigned from any day-to-day operations. I still own 20 percent of the business, and that’s still being negotiated.
Q: I notice you are selling cookbooks here.
A: Yes, I got the cookbooks. And I will probably be writing another one to go with this restaurant as well.
Q: Any goals for the new Paolo’s?
A: We’re doing what we intended: We’re a neighborhood restaurant for East Saugus; we’re filling the void that needed to be filled.
Q: Was it hard to replicate the original Paolo’s restaurant here?
A: It wasn’t a long process. I pulled out the notes from my Charlestown restaurant and applied them to my hometown. And it kind of made sense.
Q: When did you decide to get out of the donut business?
A: I pretty much decided in March of 2022. I was contemplating getting out of the donut business and getting back to what I love doing: cooking and putting a smile on peoples’ faces. And we got the same menu as we had in Charlestown with a couple of new things. Putting a smile on peoples’ faces always tells me that it’s a job well done. Nothing speaks more volumes than seeing people smiling.
Q: Anything else that you want to share?
A: I want this place to be an asset to the community: a place where people can come and gather – not only to enjoy a meal – but also visit with each other, break a little bread.
Q: How many different cooking disciplines do you have? What are the countries that you can cook from?
A: Greek, Italian, Asian, Southwest. I also dabble in straight Mexican and cook some Asian cuisine as well. If you are going to be a chef in America, you better learn how to cook a couple of different disciplines.
Q: I notice a lot of people from Charlestown frequenting this place. How is that?
A: It’s all been word of mouth or the Internet.
Q: I guess cooking must be in your genes.
A: Both of my grandfathers and my dad did it, and my mother was a tremendous cook. For a lot of Greek families, it’s a part of growing up at a very young age. My father had a diner in Chelsea, Tony’s Spa in Bellingham Square. Both of my grandfathers had their own little restaurants over the years. My father also owned a donut shop in Lynn called Mrs. Foster’s. Then, later, he and mom purchased Kane’s Donuts. They bought Kane’s in 1988.
In 2007, I was headed to New York City to chef at a restaurant, and my dad asked me to stay and run the donut shop as president of the company. I took it from $500,000 to $8.1 million in annual sales.