Tom Lynch, head chef at Fresco (located at 35 Chapel Street) has been cooking in Needham almost as long as he's lived here; which is to say most his life.
As a child he split time between his father's house in Needham and his mother's place on the South Shore, where as a teenager he attended South Shore Vo-Tech High School and learned the basics of what would eventually turn into a career in food. After graduation Lynch was accepted to Brookline's Newbury College, where he majored in culinary arts.
With the ink barely dried on his Newbury College diploma, Lynch went to work for family friends the Belibasakis brothers, who owned a local pizza shop called Nicholas's Pizza. Opened in 1995 Nicholas's quickly endeared itself to the pizza eating public of Needham, but by the 2005 the brothers Belibasakis felt the urge to expand.
Rather than tinker with Nicholas's popularity, the brothers opted to open a new, diner style restaurant, featuring full breakfast and dinner menus that specialized in cuisine from their native Greece. A storefront next to Nicholas's Pizza opened up and soon after Fresco was born.
Offering eat-in or take-out, generous portions, and an attention to detail not usually found in a greasy spoon diner, Fresco quickly carved out a loyal clientele.
"Everything here is homemade. Soups, sandwiches, you name it," said Lynch from the sun-drenched patio in front of Fresco's entrance, which acts as additional, outdoor setting in the summer months. "And either one of the owners or myself is always here to make sure the quality is as it should be."
Lynch says Fresco's focus on quick and affordable food, without sacrificing quality or a personal touch, is what sets it apart from the slew of "high-end" fast food restaurants that have sprung up in the area recently. In addition to made to specification food orders, chef Lynch and staff are happy to alter ingredients so as to fit the dietary needs of its customers, a real bonus in a world where more and more children are developing severe food allergies.
"We're very customer oriented, very Needham orientated, which is important because we have so many regulars," he related. "They like things a certain way and we're happy to oblige them."
Night owls and late shifters may be disappointed to learn that Fresco shuts its doors at 3 p.m. daily, but the restaurant does offer catering if you're craving classic Greek dishes like spanikopita, a flaky pastry with a filling of chopped spinach, feta cheese and other filings,.
"We've catered weddings, bar mitzvahs, plus we do pancake breakfasts and things like that," Lynch said while straightening up the grill at the end of another busy afternoon. "Whatever people need, we'll try to accommodate."
Tu Y Yo Mexican Cuisine is located at 35 Chapel Street. You can also visit their website for more information.