Inside Stories

InsideDracut: Grazie is Oscar’s Place

(Photos by Dan Phelps)

The new chef at Grazie Italian Restaurant in Dracut comes with a pretty impressive palate pedigree.

Oscar Figueroa took over as executive chef of Grazie, at Four Oaks Country Club, in September 2022. Owner Cindy Kuenzler hopes Grazie is “the final home” in a career that has seen Oscar associating with several of Boston’s most famous and celebrated chefs.

“I feel very fortunate to have Oscar with us,” Kuenzler said.

Figueroa’s culinary path, before he made his way up Meadow Creek Drive, started in 1995 when he came to the United States from Guatemala. His uncle had worked for restaurateur Lydia Shire, recipient of several James Beard Foundation awards and an inductee into Restaurant News’ Fine Dining Hall of Fame. Figueroa joined her staff at Pignoli in Boston’s Copley Plaza and then at Biba.

“I was her favorite prep cook,” Figueroa said.

In 2001, when Shire and Paul Licari bought the historic Locke-Ober in Boston, Figueroa followed her there, working under executive chef Jacky Robert, now the co-owner of Ma Maison. Robert is a recipient of the prestigious Silver Chef’s Hat from the Master Chefs of Europe.

“Jacky is like a father to me,” Figueroa said.

Figueroa then became a chef at Shire’s Scampo in Boston’s Liberty Hotel, where he got to know Jasper White, another James Beard Foundation award recipient and founder of the landmark restaurants Jasper’s and Jasper White’s Summer Shack.

In 2019, after 24 years with Shire, Figueroa became the head chef at Stazione di Federal in Waltham, his first job at a restaurant not owned by Shire.

“Jacky is the one who told me, ‘I know you love Lydia, but you have to go out on your own,’” Figueroa said.

Stazione di Federal is co-owned by Richard Brackett, who Dracut businessman Ralph Pelosi got to know through frequenting the Federal. When Pelosi, also a friend of Kuenzler and her husband, Mike Kuenzler, mentioned that Grazie was looking for an executive chef, Brackett suggested they hire Figueroa.

And what a suggestion it was!

“Ever since Oscar came to Grazie, our customers are constantly raving about our food,” said Kuenzler, noting that Grazie has a score of 4.8 out of 5 on the online reservation system Open Table.

Figueroa is hesitant to name his specialty, but soup is certainly among them. Grazie offers two of his soups daily.

“Oscar’s soups and his daily risottos are out of this world,” Cindy Kuenzler said, adding that Oscar has added some new specials, with more on the way. “We’ve maintained the menu for the most part, and Oscar has introduced some new daily specials, including Chilean Sea Bass, Steak Frites and Lazy Lobster. We’ll have new lunch and dinner specials. We have some spring specials up our sleeves. A lot of fun stuff.”

Figueroa still considers Shire, Robert and Brackett to be members of his family, and after learning how to cook at their restaurants, he’s happy to be running his own kitchen here in Dracut, where he has 14 cooks working under him.

And the Kuenzlers are just as happy to have him running the kitchen.

“He doesn’t stop,” Cindy Kuenzler said. “From the moment he walks in until the moment he leaves, he’s always moving. He’s very committed and hard-working. He’s very passionate. This is Oscar’s place.”

Dan Phelps is the Economic Development Project Planner for the Town of Dracut.

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