By Janet Stoica
When he decided to come out of retirement, Ralph Verzillo searched far and wide for a place that would offer the right amount of seating for guests and kitchen space for the cooks.
A friend told him about the former Big I diner in Oxford, and after checking out the location at 578 Main Street, he decided it would be the right spot to open his new Half Baked & Fully Roasted restaurant.
Mr. Verzillo completely renovated the space, installing new kitchen equipment, granite countertops, counter stools, lighting, and bright, trendy signage. The exterior and interior signage and color schemes are the work of interior designer Jennifer Wrixon.
The building is owned by LaMountain Bros. Construction Company of Oxford, which was also involved in the reconstruction of the restaurant. Mr. Verzillo has nothing but praise for the company: “They’re absolutely wonderful.”
Half Baked & Fully Roasted’s opening day was August 1. Judging by its packed parking lot, the new restaurant quickly found a receptive audience.
A resident of Millbury, Mr. Verzillo previously managed and held chef positions at Disney World and Pleasant Valley Country Club as well as Christo’s Restaurant in Worcester, where he partnered with his brother.
Half Baked & Fully Roasted serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We have an in-house baker who makes our muffins and other tasty baked goods,” said Mr. Verzillo. “Our muffins are jumbo-sized, weighing in at 6-1/2 ounces each. We also offer gluten-free cakes, fresh fruit tarts, and whoopee pies. Our wonderful baker is always coming up with new homemade recipes.” The morning this writer dined there, the baker was offering up a light and fluffy orange coffee cake, just delicious.
Michael Lombardi, a Culinary Olympics Certified Chef, assists in the weekend menu planning as well as preparation. The Culinary Olympics is the oldest and most distinctive international culinary arts competition in the world and Chef Verzillo is pleased that Chef Lombardi is working with him and his staff.
Breakfast is served all day. The menu includes fresh fruit with granola, waffles, eggs benedict (Irish, Florentine, crab, and salmon varieties), pancakes and omelets – even oatmeal with raisins or choice of fresh fruit and brown sugar.
Lunch offerings consist of a house signature soup along with lemon chicken orzo, a variety of fresh salads, including a hearty antipasto, spaghetti with meatballs, gourmet hamburgers and hot dogs, and various sandwiches and grinders.
Half Baked is also proud to offer up their own corned beef hash and deep-fried Texas French toast that is tossed in cinnamon suger and served with whipped butter, which is made fresh daily.
Friday and Saturday dinners feature local favorites like beer-battered fish and chips, grilled salmon, prime rib, and Italian specialties such as pasta Bolognese with fresh mozzarella. Their hollandaise and pasta sauces are all homemade. “We’re happy to offer Peet’s premium roast coffee too,” said Mr. Verzillo.
“Dinner menus will change weekly and seasonally. Soon, we expect to offer Grab & Go Meals for those who want to pick up and bring home a nice meal. We’ll have Chicken Parmigiana and Marsala and other delicious take-home dinners. We are doing our best to please everyone who dines here. Catering is also a house specialty and we’ve already accommodated birthday parties, clambakes, and anniversary parties. We appreciate our customers and are glad they’re coming out to support a local business.”
The restaurant’s interior and exterior seating is socially distanced, and diners must enter with face masks, which may be removed after being seated. Reservations are not required.
And where did the restaurant name originate? “I was sitting with a group of friends and we were tossing around names for the new place and this one seemed to hit the spot,” said Mr. Verzillo, “It really has no meaning to it; just sounded good.”
Half Baked and Fully Roasted diner, 578 Main Street, Oxford, phone: 508-731-0744. Hours: Mon-Sat 5:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.; Fri/Sat dinner 4:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. www.halfbakedandfullyroasted.com.