Saturday, February 24, 2024

A weekly notebook about food during the Covid-19 shutdown. Remember, if you’re dining out, doing takeout or getting delivery, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.


The Newtowne is back


A slimmed-down menu at the Newtowne Grille Express in Porter Square still has room for a Mushroom Arancini with truffle honey, Parmesan, Manchego and Marinara. Behind it is a more traditional burger. (Photo: Newtowne Grille via Facebook)

Even before the pandemic rumors were swirling that the Newtowne Grille, the old-school staple in Porter Square long before the red line came through in the early 1980s (founded in 1966, to be exact) was on the brink of being sold. Socrates Toulopoulos’ baby is still in the family (along with the sister restaurant in Billerica) though under new management, and it just reopened a takeout storefront (now labeled as an “Express”) last week. For decades the Newtowne was the place to go for pizza at the right price – it had a large pie and a pitcher of beer special for around $15, as I recall. On my recent order there I had the classic chicken parm sub: It was loaded with provolone and a perfectly moist chicken cutlet, though I could have used a touch more marinara sauce. The sub was so big, I shared the other half and was still sated. 


The grill’s menu as of now is a slimmer version of what you knew, but I was told turkey and steak tips – the turkey tip salad or turkey tips over wild rice was always a favorite of mine when not gobbling down a gloriously gooey ’za – were coming back soon, and that basic breakfast sandos and wraps were on the way as well. The online order process through the Toast order app was hurdle free, and my order was waiting for me on time with a perfectly social distanced pickup. The young man passing me the goods told me a Thanksgiving menu was on the way too, and there might be free coffee with those a.m. egg and cheese satisfiers. 

Digging around on the Newtowne’s Facebook page, it looks like the breakfast and Thanksgiving offerings are now live, but not on the Toast online ordering form; calling in would be the way to go. Go to and navigate from there; Googling might bring you site with a phone number, which you can use to order as well, but no menu to peruse. 

The Express is good news. It’s nice to have an old friend back. 

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.