A Chef Who Can Go The Distance

A Chef Who Can Go The Distance
KENT - Don't be fooled by the way Paolo's Italian looks on the outside.

It's what's inside this unassuming Kent restaurant that'll surprise you.

"I was born and raised here in Kent, and I always thought Kent could use a good Italian restaurant," says chef Paul Raftis who heads up this family-run neighborhood spot on the East Hill.

"I always wanted to have my own restaurant, so from an early age, about 8 years old, I started dressing up as a chef on Halloween."

Paul and his wife Kristen have made Paulo's a place where regulars come for the home cooking - and stay for the home-spun charm.

"We went from being a more formal, special occasion restaurant, to a little more casual, neighborhood restaurant."

Sixteen years ago, Paolo's was a burger joint called the Bum Steer. It was owned by his parents, who also used to own the Golden Steer next door.

"I actually worked (at Paolo's) when it was the Bum Steer to get the process rolling to convert it from a drive-in restaurant to an Italian restaurant."

Two things you'll notice about Paul when you meet him - he looks incredibly young, and he's in very good shape. So, what's his secret?

"I'm a runner. A marathon runner."

In fact, Paul will be running the Boston Marathon in April. He qualified during the Portland marathon in October.

But the man does eat - taste-testing all of the sauces he makes to order.

"I grew up with a kidney defect that me and my brothers have, and we know what it's like to go into a place and ask for food without salt."

And he's most definitely had a few servings of some of their more popular dishes.

"By far the biggest seller for the past 10 years is the filet gorgonzola - an 8 ounce tenderloin steak grilled and served with a red wine sauce and lots of Gorgonzola cheese."

The other two big favorites on the menu are the grilled chicken gorgonzola and the stuffed tortellini which is tossed in a rich gorgonzola sauce with grilled chicken and mushrooms.

Paul says they've gone through 10,000 pounds of gorgonzola since they opened in 1990.

And while marathon training may wear him out, Paul says he'll never get tired of his job - or his customers.

"People come in and go, 'that smells so good!' That never gets old. I love hearing that. That's always a nice compliment."

Some of the places Paul and Kristen like to Go Eat!: 94 Stewart, Saigon Rose

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