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Chef Paul Turano Serves Up Comfort Food and Charity in Arlington: Featuring Tryst Restaurant

Truffle fries, grilled cheese, Dutch apple pie . . . your definition of comfort food probably varies, depending on what you grew up eating and where you've lived. But if you currently live in or near Arlington, Mass., then comfort food might be best summed up in one word: Tryst.

The 100-seat Tryst restaurant is Chef-Owner Paul Turano's answer to flash-in-the-pan culinary trends that overlook the basics. "We just cook food that people want to eat. The foods that you crave," said Turano. "Really good chicken, a really good salad, really competent service."

Chef-Owner Paul Turano at his restaurant, Tryst in Arlington, Mass.
Tryst restaurant in Arlington MA homes for sale

Since opening in 2004, the restaurant that won "Best New Restaurant" from Boston magazine boasts an ever-evolving selection of comfort foods with a decidedly modern twist. Tagliatelle bolognese with hand-cut pasta, kale and brussels sprout salad, and shrimp tacos with aji crema are three staples, but the rest is subject to change.

"We have a lot of regulars. I try to talk to my guests. 'What are you looking for, what do you want to see? I'm changing the menu.' [...] I listen to what people have to say - good and bad - and that's how I work the menu," said Chef Turano, who's always looking for the next great chicken dish. "I get very bored. I like change."

The customer-inspired menu also changes seasonally, featuring dishes such as heirloom squash ravioli with fall spices, sage brown butter, pistachio crumb and parmesan; and pepper-crusted flat-iron steak with cottage potatoes, roasted cauliflower and Stilton fondue.

Shrimp tacos, one of the staple menu items at Tryst.
Shrimp Tacos at Tryst restaurant in Arlington, MA

Of course, two of the most important comfort food ingredients are used in Tryst dishes year-round: passion and a big heart.

Chef Turano went right into culinary school after high school, earning his culinary arts degree from Newbury College: "It was all I ever wanted to do. I really am a food addict, so I figured maybe I'd try to make a living out of it, maybe I'd be successful someday. I started cooking to try it and I fell in love with it."

His first solo restaurant venture was the highly acclaimed 30-seat Olio bistro in Canton, Mass. Ready to expand two years later, he told he "put all the money I had into the restaurant and lived very modestly until I was able to pay off all my debt."

Tryst's location in Arlington Center is the first place he looked at seriously. "Arlington is surrounded by good towns. It's a pretty tight-knit community," said Turano. "It's been great. We started as an unknown, and now we're embraced and I see a lot of the same faces once a week."

Chef-Owner Paul Turano in his award-winning restaurant, Tryst.
Chef-Owner Paul Turano at his restaurant Tryst in arlington, MA

Getting that kind of support from the community isn't something he takes lightly. The chef is a staunch believer in giving back, turning "what goes around comes around" into an everyday mantra that drives his participation in local events, including being a guest chef for the nonprofit Kids Cooking Green and running several charitable promotions - most notably an annual holiday fundraiser for the Patient and Family Resource Room at Boston's Children's Hospital.

"I like to make it really easy for people. One year we did gift cards. This year if you donate up to $20, we'll give you back up to $20 in a gift certificate to the restaurant," said Turano whose son had a life-saving bone marrow transplant at the hospital.

"I spent two months there with my son. Going through that was an eye-opening experience, something that's not only awful but costly. I remember somebody would come in and give us an envelope with a gift certificate to go buy coffee - and whether you need the money or not, it's good to know someone cares. I always wondered, 'Who does this?' And I knew from then on that it was going to be kind of my giving back and way to show appreciation for what people had done for us."

All proceeds from Chef Paul's fundraiser go directly to the Hematology/Oncology family resource program at Boston Children's Hospital.
Chef Paul Turano's fundraiser for Boston Children's Hospital

Donations made from December 1 through December 31, 2014 qualify for a free gift certificate to either Tryst in Arlington or Chef Paul's newest restaurant Cook in Newton, which opened in 2013. You can learn more about the fundraiser on Tryst's website or donate directly on Boston Children's Hopsital's website

"I hope to raise as much money as possible and I just want people to know what a great cause it is. I think it's a win-win. You give, you get. It's an easy way to give and it's a great thing to do around the holidays."

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