MARIE AND MIKE SCALA stand beside the sign for their newly-reopened restaurant, Home Again, located at 1614 Wakefield Road (Route 153), beyond the Wakefield transfer station but before the highway garage. The lobster roll is just one of many specials offered each week. (click for larger version)
July 10, 2014"Home Again" is both Wakefield's newest restaurant and one of its oldest.
Mike and Marie Scala have lived in Wakefield since 1972 and owned the restaurant at 1614 Wakefield Road (Route 153, near the transfer station) since 1993. For years it was the place to go to enjoy great seafood and Italian dishes, but five years ago the couple decided to retire and leased the restaurant building. The first tenant last three years and the second tenant only lasted two, despite Mike pitching in to help with the cooking.
"They both handed in the keys at Christmas," Mike said. "Neither one knew the restaurant business and they made mistakes."
After the second tenant failed to make a go of it, Mike and Marie decided to come out of retirement and reopen their own restaurant with a shorter work week, a new menu and help from their children and grandchildren.
Both were used to running restaurants that were open seven days a week for long hours and they did not want to go back to that. Mike has been in the food service business since 1964. He had a chain of Scala Sandwich Shops in Rochester, Somersworth, Dover, and Farmington in New Hampshire, and in Sanford, Westbrook and Portland, Maine. From 1989 to 2002 Mike, joined by Marie, had full-service, breakfast through dinner restaurants in Ogunquit and Kennebunk, Maine, and they brought their three sons into the business.
Scaling back to the Wakefield restaurant reduced the workload but it was still hard work. This time they decided to be open for half the week and focus on the days most people like to eat out: Thursday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The new menu features comfort food, including dishes only to be found at Home Again. Breakfast includes, for example: Farmer Frank, a three-egg omelet with hash and a choice of cheeses; a pulled pork omelet; a Fenway omelet with Italian sweet sauage, onions, peppers and cheese; the Horse and Buggy, three scrambled eggs and ham and three pancakes; griddle cakes made on the stove with butter (thin and crispy) and the North End, with two eggs and Italian sausage on a biscuit with cheese sauce and baked beans in place of the home fries that come with the other dishes.
Breakfast also includes the standards like bacon and eggs, but adds extras like smoked kielbasa and babyback ribs and a variety of pancakes, including buckwheat. Mike also makes what he calls sawmill gravy, a sausage gravy made fresh daily. All biscuits and other breads are homemade. When he ran a pancake house Mike's breakfasts won Tri-City awards.
None of the breakfast items are priced at more than $6.50.
For lunch and dinner his bestsellers include a Tom Turkey sandwich made from turkey that is smoked and deep-fried on the premises; a patty melt with onions and cheddar cheese; and a pulled pork sandwich. Standard fare includes hamburgers and chicken fingers. All orders are served with French fries.
Friday is fish and chowder day. The chowder is homemade and varies from corn to clam to haddock. The fish served also varies based on what is fresh, but usually includes clams, haddock, swordfish and scallops. Mike's most expensive item is a seafood platter for two for $18.95: it includes clams, haddock, shrimp, scallops, French fries and cole slaw. Otherwise no entrée is priced at more than $12.95.
Saturday dinner features prime rib and steak tips and a fried chicken dinner. Featured desserts include strawberry "longcake," apple cinnamon bread pudding with maple syrup, and grapenut custard.
Freshness is an obsession with Mike. He only orders enough for the meals he expects to serve and sometimes runs out of a given item as a result. "I don't do layovers," he says, meaning food warmed over the next day.
The last element of Mike's new plan for the restaurant is to involve the family and have plenty of help for Marie and himself. His sons are all involved, each taking a day to help out, and he has three grandkids helping in the kitchen and doing the dishes.
Home Again has a BYOB policy so people can bring their own wine or beer and keep the total meal tab low. There is seating for 31 inside and 19 outside on the screened summer porch.
Mike has a flag that says, "Welcome Home Again – Enjoy Your Meal" and is working on something else to present his slogan for the restaurant: "A little bit out of the way, but a lot less to pay."
The restaurant can be reached Thursday through Sunday afternoon at 522-6700. Better yet, come by between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. (up to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday) and find out for yourself how good and affordable comfort food can be.