Anthony’s Italian Kitchen is a family affair, through and through.

Anthony Barrasso, 82, opened the restaurant in 1992 on Middle Street in Portland, near the courthouses. It was a second career – maybe a third, if you count a brief stint selling Cadillacs – that was inspired by working at his mother Lucy’s East Boston restaurant.

“I’ve been here so long, I’ve seen law clerks become judges,” Barrasso said on a recent Wednesday at Anthony’s, where people he really likes — pretty much everyone who enters — call him Tony.

Three of his kids – Mark, Julie Fournier and Karen St. Pierre – have worked at Anthony’s since it opened, taking customer orders and serving nearly 60 kinds of sandwiches along with meals like lasagna, eggplant parmesan and pizza, all cooked from Lucy’s recipes.

“It’s kind of like an orchestra here when it’s busy, everybody just does what they do best,” said Fournier, who spends time each morning before customers arrive arranging soda in display coolers and chips on racks into almost military formation, so improbably neat and tidy are the rows of bottles and bags.

Mark Barrasso, 47, started working at Anthony’s when he was 17, a senior at Cheverus High School. And though he considered a career in radio after graduating college, “My father made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he joked. “But really, there was pull there to help the family.”


Anthony Barrasso and his daughter Karen St. Pierre pose for a photo during her wedding reception at Anthony’s Italian Kitchen in late September. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“When we’re here, it’s a well-oiled machine, we work extremely well together,” said St. Pierre, who married her new husband Jason inside the restaurant last month on the same stage his band plays jazz on Thursday nights, figuring the venue couldn’t be more appropriate. The couple’s roughly 50 guests feasted on Anthony’s baked ziti, some of it gluten-free, and homemade cannoli.

St. Pierre joined the family business when she was 23. Like her siblings, she said she couldn’t have foreseen herself still working at Anthony’s today.

“I was just starting a family,” she said. “I was going to do this for a year and get my feet wet then finish my degree, but here I am 30 years later. It wasn’t the original plan, but I really feel like I grew into this business.”

The business itself has grown into a lifestyle for the family, none more so than Tony. A tall, broad, white-haired man with soulful eyes, Tony still works every day until about 2 p.m. “I think the business keeps him going, keeps him young, focused and sharp,” said Mark Barrasso. “This is his baby.”

Like his kids, he often finds himself doing what he does best here: doling out big smiles and warm greetings for customers, along with hugs where needed.

“I just treat everybody like human beings,” said Barrasso in a hushed voice as he revealed the secret. “It’s not rocket science. Just treat people good.”



As with his kids, restaurant life wasn’t “the plan” for Barrasso, either. The East Boston native – known as Butchie back in the day – started out working at the pharmacy across the street from his home.

“I used to be a soda jerk there,” Barrasso said. “The owner said, ‘Butchie, you have such a nice personality. Go to pharmacy school and I’ll sell you this pharmacy.’ And I did, and he did.”

Barrasso graduated from Northeastern University’s first pharmacy school class in 1964, bought the drugstore, and ran Barrasso Pharmacy for the next 20 years. Many of the framed autographed photos and memorabilia covering Anthony’s walls have roots in his days at the pharmacy, where he filled prescriptions for sports legends like Bobby Orr and John Bucyk, and became friendly with celebrities like actor and singer Richard Harris.

Because Barrasso bought the whole pharmacy building, which included other commercial storefronts, he gave his mother a space to open her own restaurant, Captain Lucy’s Italian Restaurant. “She was the cutest little old lady,” he said. “And boy, could she cook.”

By the 1980s, chain pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens had started making business untenable for small, privately owned pharmacies. Barrasso grew tired of the struggle, closed down his pharmacy, and went to work for his mother in the hopes of learning the restaurant business.


“So I learned, and it was just – this is what I want to do. It was just magic,” Barrasso said, his eyes gleaming. “My father asked me, ‘What did you like better, the drugstore business or the restaurant business?’ I said, ‘Dad, you can’t make people smile selling them medicine.’ ”

Around 1990, his daughter, Julie, was living in Maine and about to have her first child. Barrasso moved up to Portland to be closer to his new grandchild. He knew he wanted to open a restaurant here, but didn’t know exactly where just yet.

“I wanted to be on a highway, something like Anjon’s in Scarborough,” he recalled.

In the meantime, he took a job at Bill Dodge in Falmouth selling Cadillacs, where he counted former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (who bought a burgundy Brougham) among his customers. Eventually, Barrasso learned of a commercial property opening on Middle Street in the Old Port.

Karen St. Pierre prepares for the lunch service at Anthony’s on a late September day. She’s worked there since it opened three decades ago, as have her siblings, all children of proprietor Anthony Barrasso. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


“The Old Port was a rugged place back then,” he said. “It was not what it is today. It was a lot of bucket-of-blood places. You go in there, and you better be ready to fight. It was a bunch of drunken fishermen and seamen and longshoremen, and it’s what they did.”


Despite his reluctance, he looked into the location. It was basement-level, a former hair salon, but the 1,200-square-foot space had potential. Importantly, it was next door to Videoport, the hugely popular video rental store that closed in 2015.

“I met (Videoport owner) Bill Duggan. He told me he had 38,000 customers in his computer,” Barrasso recalled, his eyes wide even now at the video store’s enormous customer base. “Then I asked him what he thought of having a pizza parlor next to him. He said it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.”

“What better combination than pizza and a movie? It was very lucrative back in the day,” said Fournier. “If you had a good snowstorm, there would be a line out both of our doors, up the stairs and to the street because everybody wanted to get pizza and movie and go home and hunker down. Those were good times.”

Fournier said that while they were handling throngs of people on any given day, “It was so much more personal with your customers back then, because the only way they got food is if they walked through the door. The evolution into online ordering and delivery services, while I understand the necessity of it, I’m not a fan,” she said. “You got much closer to the people back then, and their overall vibe of gratefulness and graciousness.”

Anthony’s has had the same chef, Carolyn Easton, for 27 years, apt for a business built on tight bonds and tradition. Barrasso talked fondly about interviewing Easton, whom he and his kids have embraced as part of the family.

“It was down to her and another woman who worked at Denny’s, and so had experience Carolyn didn’t,” he said. But Barrasso was aware that Easton was broke at the time, literally down to her last 35 cents, as Easton recalls it.


“The next day, after the interview, I got a postcard she sent,” Barrasso said. “It said, ‘I so enjoyed meeting your family, I would love to be a part of that picture.’ I said to myself, that was a message from God, I’m hiring her. She spent her last money on that postcard.”

Easton said she was immediately invited to family dinner with the Barrassos to celebrate joining Anthony’s. “I was sitting at the table with his mother, it was just me and her,” Easton remembered. “I was eating my pasta, and she was just staring at me. And I looked up, and she’s like, ‘Can you taste the love?’ And I got the little speech about how important that is. It kind of encouraged me – I just want to carry on their family tradition.

“I’m more of a cook than a chef,” she continued. “I follow the old family recipes. We get a lot of people come down here and say, ‘This tastes just like my grandmother’s.’ I want to make sure people can taste the love.”

Easton has been with the Barrassos as the Old Port gentrified, OJ was acquitted and the Twin Towers fell. The team at Anthony’s was there for each other when Anthony’s wife, Joan, died of cancer in 2007.

“She was my girlfriend since the first grade,” Barrasso said with a bittersweet smile. “I was so in love with my wife.”

The recent wedding reception for Anthony Barrasso’s daughter in the dining area of Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, a fixture in the Old Port. The restaurant has fed several generations of lawyers, judges and law clerks. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer



When the pandemic hit, though, Anthony’s underwent some of its biggest challenges to date. Barrasso is diabetic, and for his own safety, the children forbade him from coming in to work for four months at the outset in 2020.

Barrasso complied with their order, but just barely. Every work day, he’d mask up and drive to Anthony’s, parking outside on Middle Street so he could greet customers personally from the safety of his SUV before they went inside.

“My dad deserves every ounce of the credit for getting this thing off the ground and keeping the people coming in, who just really want to see him,” said St. Pierre. “They appreciate what he’s built here.”

“Tony really want people to enjoy the food and the company,” said Jim Lagrange of Portland, a customer for about 15 years. “He puts people at ease, and the food speaks for itself.”

But business suffered badly as pandemic shutdowns and remote work meant Anthony’s could no longer count on scores of lawyers and other courthouse-related customers. “That kills you,” Barrasso said. “This is what we depend on.”

The restaurant was forced to cut non-family staff and switch to takeout-only for a year. And it had six months of unpaid back rent.


Then in February 2021, on the eve of Barrasso’s 80th birthday, came what Fournier calls “a godsend”: a $25,000 grant from the sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports, from a fund established to assist foundering businesses nationwide during the pandemic. The total amount came to more than $25,000 after some additional infusions from Barstool Sports in the months after the grant announcement, though Fournier declined to say the exact figure.

“We would not have made it through COVID without Barstool Sports,” Fournier said. “We were doing the best we could with what little we had, and we were just about done.”

“It was touch and go there for a while,” Mark Barrasso said. “But here we are on the other side of it. We just take things a day at a time and a week at a time.”

The family has worked hard to maintain an even keel regardless of circumstances. “We’ve learned to maintain a very close family core. When we’re outside of these walls, we remain a strong family. That’s taken 30 years of practice, but we have a strong unit,” St. Pierre said. “It’s been a practice of learning to leave things at the door.”

Fournier sees it a little differently. “You definitely don’t leave it at the door,” she said with a laugh. “It’s very hard not to bring a family business home with you when you work with the family.”

Regardless, the Barrassos have weathered life together all these years, and they don’t expect major changes to Anthony’s anytime soon. Barrasso said in the coming years, he intends to turn Anthony’s entirely over to his kids.


“I’ve been very fortunate,” Barrasso said. “I have a nice family, a nice landlord. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can just keep doing business and stay open.”

Beyond the generational family food and playful atmosphere, Anthony’s success comes from the warmth of its hospitality. It’s a legacy Barrasso started and nurtured, and that his kids feel confident they can continue.

“The first customer of the day is treated as well, the exact same way as the last one,” St. Pierre said. “And that’s always been the way he’s done it. People feel very special here. And so to carry that legacy on will certainly be big shoes to fill, but my dad has taught us well.”

Anthony Barrasso made a poster of his mother’s recipes that hangs on the wall of the dining area at his eponymous Old Port restaurant. Find her lasagna recipe with this story. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Recipe developed by Lucy Barrasso (Anthony’s mom). 

1 recipe Marinara Sauce
2 pounds ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1/2  cup grated Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Make the Marinara Sauce (recipe follows).

Mix together the ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup Romano, salt and pepper, and parsley.

Coat a 13 x 9-inch pan with marinara sauce.  Arrange a layer of noodle over the sauce. Top with more sauce, then half of the ricotta mixture. Follow with another layer of noodle, then sauce and the rest of ricotta mixture. Cover with a final layer of noodles, the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the extra Romano cheese.

Bake the lasagna in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Turn the casserole and bake for an additional 40 minutes.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
One (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons torn basil leaves
1 tablespoon sugar

Put the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Sauté a crushed garlic clove in the warm oil for a minute or so with the salt and pepper, until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and sugar. Simmer the sauce of medium/medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

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