After clocking in years at Boston’s fine-dining institutions, chef Patrick Campbell is finally opening the kind of restaurant Stoneham, MA needs: The Stones, with pasta galore, airy interiors, sparkling wines, and a whole section of the menu dedicated to fries.
“It’s tough to get gas or go to the grocery store without bumping into someone you know,” says chef Patrick Campbell. He chuckles. “Which is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.”
That’s life in Stoneham, Massachusetts, a small town of 21,000 people just ten miles north of Boston. Campbell has lived here nearly his whole life—when he was a teenager, scooping up side dishes at Boston Market, and later on, when he was commanding the kitchen at No. 9 Park in Boston as Best New Chef alum Barbara Lynch’s right-hand man. Stoneham has always been home. But after his nine-year tenure at No. 9 and taking the reins as executive chef at Cafe ArtScience a few years ago, he decided to leave the intensity, tweezers, and stress of fine dining for something closer to home. Something akin to that gas station or grocery-store run-in. Something in Stoneham.
Campbell first met Lisa Beattie back at Boston Market, where the two slung mashed potatoes. They always saw each other at school friends’ weddings, eventually industry events since she and her husband James tended bar in Boston at Hennessy’s and O’Connor’s. When the Beatties dreamed of opening their own restaurant in Stoneham, they emailed Campbell to help them set up the kitchen since they had no cooking experience. “I just wanted a place to hang out on my day off,” says Campbell. “I didn’t think I would open a small joint in my hometown.”
In Stoneham, there’s a narrow range of options when it comes to dining out, according to Campbell. There are tons of Dunkin Donuts, sub shops, and pizzerias. Every sit-down restaurant falls into the red-sauce-Italian or American-Chinese-with-sushi category. The Stones isn’t any of those things.
“My partners and I grew up here, and we’re still living in this town,” says Campbell. “We wanted to do something different.”
Located on Stoneham’s main street, the 2,600-square-foot restaurant doesn’t have blacked-out windows typical to the area but a big window that opens out to the seasonal patio as well as light wood, subway tile, and turquoise and royal blue chairs to make the space pop. Campbell’s convinced his purveyors from his No. 9 days to make the quick drive to Stoneham—Savenor's for chicken, steaks, and chuck for the burgers; D’Artagnan for rabbit and foie gras; Sparrow Arc Farm for herbs, flowers, and winter squashes. Which means Campbell is reviving some old favorites from No. 9—”Pasta was such a big part of my life,” he says. There’s squid-ink spaghetti with lobster, tagliatelle with braised artichokes, and of course, bucatini cacio e pepe.
The Beatties and Campbell have given a lot of thought to the beverages—Pol Roger Champagne, Chablis, lots of Pinot Noir as well as 15 beers on draft. But what Campbell’s most excited about is making The Stones a restaurant for everyone. Case in point: There’s a whole section dedicated to fries, something on toast (here, deviled Jonah crab), and Budweiser. He’s also excited about making salad. “We’re in an area where salad means iceberg lettuce with stuff on top of it,” says Campbell. Here, the salad is made up of English peas, torn herbs, and cucumber juice—with Buffalo mozzarella and fried bread for good measure.
This weekend, Campbell and the Beatties are quietly opening their neighborhood restaurant, and they’ll be officially open to the public—“like Instagram live,” says Campbell—early next month on April 3. He isn’t in a rush though. He wants to build trust with his hometown restaurant, just like he did with No. 9 regulars all those years.
“I want this to be this to be the place where everyone in town congregates and has those random interactions with each other but in better context than a grocery store,” says Campbell. “I just want the town to like it. I want people to say, ‘This isn’t what I thought Pat Campbell would be doing in 20 years. I’ll be back in six days.’”