Melrose:Wood and Fire: authentic Italian cuisine with a personal touch

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Joe Auciello ran a highly successful Italian take-out restaurant, Francesca’s Kitchen in Arlington, for 10 years. The food was great, the menu was extensive and it was always busy. There was something missing, however.


“I love the restaurant business and love creating fantastic food,” said Auciello, who studied culinary arts at Newbury College after graduating from Malden Catholic and has been a cook and restaurateur for his entire adult life. “At a take-out place, people are in and out and I didn’t really get the chance to talk to them and establish relationships.


“I’m a people person and, after a while, I started looking for something that provided a more personal experience, for me and the customer. I also wanted an opportunity to be more creative with the menu.”


The wait is over. On Dec, 29, Auciello and his wife Leesa officially opened Wood and Fire, a full-service, dine-in Italian restaurant located at 35 Essex St., right across from Shaw’s. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, Wood and Fire offers authentic Italian dishes that include wood-fired pizza, appetizers, salads, panini and Italian pastries.


The menu also includes an assortment of beer and wine. Take-out orders are available.


Their wood fire oven is a hand-built model imported from Italy. The restaurant also recruited chef Omar Castillo from Francesca’s. “He’s been part of our family for 10 years,” said Leesa. “Joe and Omar work magic together. They have a lot of passion for cooking and pleasing customers.”


So far, the restaurant has been pretty much filled to capacity since opening its doors in late December. “We put a sign out front and started a Facebook page,” explained Leesa. “The location is excellent and there’s lots of foot traffic in the area. The word got out pretty quickly.”


The Auciellos live in Stoneham, close to both sets of parents, who are originally from Italy and not at all shy about offering suggestions and recipes.


“My father gives me a few new ideas every day,” smiled Leesa, who handles the bookkeeping and financial responsibilities of the restaurant.


Wood and Fire appears to be a winning combination: good location, dedicated staff, excellent food and owners who are very enthusiastic about their new business. “Leesa and I really feel that this is a fantastic opportunity,” said Joe. “We’re excited to be here. When we were engaged back in 2005, we made the announcement at the grand opening of Francesca’s so you know we love this business.”


For additional information, visit or call 781-620-0578.


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