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South Boston Online
  Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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xtra xtra!
Meet Richard Ansara, Executive Chef
By Rick Winterson

     Originally from Lowell, Richard Ansara has worked as a chef all over the U.S., in many restaurants that will be familiar to you.  Using his extensive experience, he has expanded the menu at Amrhein’s to include South Boston’s favorites, while introducing several popular specialties.

     Richard Ansara was born in Lowell to Andrew and Yvette Ansara, who were immigrants from Lebanon.  He has a brother, William, and two sisters, Judy and Lisa.  Richard graduated for Lowell High School. 

     Cooking was part of the Ansara family tradition.  Richard’s mother was an incredible Middle Eastern cook.  His two uncles were chefs also.  Richard himself  began cooking at age 13, and the years of experience he now brings to Amrhein’s began to build up.  It was quite a journey.

     You may recall a restaurant in Lowell named the Prince Grotto, which was connected with the Prince Spaghetti factory there.  Back in the 1970s, Leo Cassenelli was the Grotto’s Executive Chef.  Cassenelli took young Richard Ansara under his wing and made him a line cook.  Usually, budding chefs start out as dishwashers, but Cassenelli could spot a new talent. 

     Richard would meet Leo Cassenelli at 4 a.m. to learn the ropes of buying fresh meat, fish, and produce.  All reputable chefs who claim excellence do their own buying each morning, in order to insure the quality of what they prepare later in the day.  Cassenelli would then drop Richard off at 8 a.m. to begin his school day.  Being a chef is a rewarding and creative profession, but no one ever said it was easy.

     You may have heard of Lawrence's flagship restaurant named “Bishop’s”, which was known far and wide.  They came from all over to dine at Bishop’s – politicians, performers, and plain people.  Richard cooked there for four years, until 1980.

     He then joined his two uncles in Toledo, Ohio.  This was an area that saw a huge influx of Middle Eastern people, so his talents were in high demand.  Richard went on to Scottsdale, Arizona, and became the chef in an upscale southwestern American restaurant.  This added yet another cuisine to his increasing roster of culinary skills.

     Richard returned to the northeast, and opened two restaurants named Ronzio’s in Merrimack and Nashua, New Hampshire.  His efforts were a success – his contemporary Italian menu received “Best in New Hampshire” for seven years running.

     He came to Boston to take on his first corporate job in the Back Bay Restaurant Group.  For four years, he was the Corporate Training Chef for Paparazzi’s.  Late in the 90s, Richard opened two restaurants of his own in the South End – Appetito’s and the South End Grille, both of which he sold in 2001.

     Richard’s next move was very close to home.  After selling Appetito’s and the South End Grille and prior to joining Steve Mulrey at Amrhein’s, he was the chef at C.F. Donovan’s over in Savin Hill.  You may have seen him there.  That’s where he learned a lot about local tastes, and that completed his culinary journey.

     Expansion of the Amrhein’s food menu was Richard’s first priority when he arrived.  He is offering Amrhein’s patrons their traditional favorites, both at lunch and at dinner – steak tips and schrod among them, not to mention the Wiener schnitzel in horseradish sauce.  The wine list is four times the size it used to be.  It focuses on American wines that combine good value with excellent taste.

     Richard’s expertise in Italian specialties has been mentioned   You may want to sample “Angel Hair Cassellini”, a unique preparation of sautéed filet mignon over angel hair pasta.  Richard named it for his original mentor at Prince Grotto.  There’ll be a follow-up article covering the Amrhein’s menu, but that will give you an idea of what awaits you.

     On the personal side, Richard Ansara spends time with his children – Bria, Drew, and Lacey.  He lives in Pepperell, and works out four or five times a week at the local Gold Gym, which is open 24 hours.  He’s also a personable type of chef who enjoys interacting with the customers at Amrhein’s.  Ask for him, and he’ll come to your table to discuss a dish or a meal.  

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Richard Ansara, the new

Executive Chef at Amrhein's, has an excellent cullinary background

and a commitment to maintaining the Amrhein's tradition.