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For Bill Therecka’s Grille 122 and others, ʽFirst Daysʼ are time to shine

By Rod Lee

The unveiling of Grille 122 Restaurant and Bar in the Linwood neighborhood of the town of Northbridge in early July after months of hard work renovating the premises amounts to a personal triumph for Owner Bill Therecka—and a dream come true for customers who have been eagerly waiting for the establishment to open its doors.

Mr. Therecka’s experience in overcoming the many impediments that stood in the way of the former Brian’s being brought back to life is typical of “First Days” in the restaurant business.

In his case, he said the afternoon of July 23rd while discussing Grille 122 in a booth overlooking Providence Road, it was recreating a pub-style atmosphere featuring comfort food that patrons remembered with fondness and were looking for again.

Mr. Therecka has done exactly that. The look and feel are the same in terms of warm and welcoming, and the response has been favorable as patrons surge forth from the parking lot across the street to sample the menu for lunch or dinner seven days a week.

A friend of Richard Duclos who is signature chef at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mr. Therecka has brought the skills he learned operating restaurants in the Moosup, Connecticut area to bear in creating Grille 122. Such able assisters as Attorney Tom Wickstrom, who handles Mr. Therecka’s legal matters, and Jim and Kim Roy, both of whom are closely affiliated with Grille 122, have helped immeasurably.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Mr. Theracka, wearing a Nautica shirt, a smile and a friendly disposition, said. “I heard about this place from my Sysco guy. We are in the early stages right now. We need to get situated to the point where things go smooth. Little things have to be worked out. I’ve always been like that, ʽhow do we improve?’”

Bill Therecka at the handsome bar at Grille 122, which he personally had a hand in creating.

The challenges Mr. Therecka faced are similar to ones other restaurateurs in the Blackstone Valley and South County have encountered starting out, or building on an existing operation.

They vary, however, from restaurant to restaurant.

For Steve Londregan and his team at Chuck’s Steak House & Margarita Grill in Auburn, the First Days were like walking a tightrope, so to speak. Chuck’s is home to such delights as the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Sicilian Calamari, soups and salads, Slow-Roasted Prime Rib, Filet Mignon and Surf & Turf.

“I would say the biggest hurdle is trying to balance your time between family and business,” Mr. Londregan said on July 22nd. “You want to be, or feel you need to be, at your business 24/7 but you can’t forget about your family. Don’t forget what’s really important.”

For Elaine Cowan, chef and owner of The UXLocale in Uxbridge (celebrated for its pasta and pizza), putting her restaurant on a firm footing has required overcoming “the unforeseen—equipment fails, permits, staffing. But with that being said, timing is everything. I would not have been able to be successful without the help of my children, who have both brought their unique talents and effervescent personalities to the table.

“I waited a very long time to make this dream come true, in part because I knew the hours it would take, and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that much time away from my family,” Ms. Cowan said. “But now I have the best of both worlds with my children at my side. Sometimes there is a strain for sure…we get on each other’s nerves, but, at the end of the day, it’s all good.”

For Jason Villatico of J. Anthony’s Italian Grill in Auburn, who took over the former Periwinkle’s from his parents seven years ago, “operational costs” including an increasing minimum wage, are his biggest headache. “Even though I wasn’t working here from Day One, I was part of the restaurant business, running around, hiding under tables,” Mr. Villatico said. “My dad (Arnie) was working eighty, ninety hours a week. It was his baby.”

Confronted with expenses that continue to climb, Mr. Villatico said “I don’t quit. I don’t have that attitude. You have to evolve. It’s all about changing with the times.”

“Unlimited salad bar” is one of the draws at J. Anthony’s Italian Grill in Auburn.

Jim Taylor at Bentley Pub in Auburn said as the lunch hour began on July 24th that he was luckier than most in having a building (the former Piccadilly Pub) and an established clientele to work with when Bentley Pub opened in July of 2012.

“I took over a successful restaurant that had only been closed for three months, so I was fortunate enough to ride their coattails,” Mr. Taylor said. “I have twenty-eight employees who started with me then who had worked for Piccadilly Pub; 95% of them were Piccadilly people.”

“Unlimited salad bar” is one of the draws at J. Anthony’s Italian Grill in Auburn.

First Days at Grille 122, meanwhile, were understandably hectic, Mr. Therecka said.

“We were asking ourselves where are the knives, where are the forks, where’s this or that?”

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.

The Lobster Roll on a Crispy Bun is a favorite at Bentley Pub in Auburn.