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Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.: A Hidden Gem Southwest of Boston

A detailed story on this friendly neighborhood pub owned by two locals who grew up in the town

Garlic parm wings at Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Roasted garlic Parmesan wings from Parker's Pub.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 9/4/2021.

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For a new restaurant, Parker's Pub somehow feels like an old friend.

Maybe that's because many people in the area know Wrentham natives and Parker's Pub owners Ed Moran and T.J. Gianfrancesco. Both attended and graduated from King Philip High School. Ed served as baseball coach of that high school team for more than two decades. He also manages the Wrentham American Legion Post 225. T.J.'s dad, Tom Gianfrancesco owned the legendary Tom's Tavern (now The Tavern at Wrentham), well-known for its fresh seafood, excellent drinks selection and New England Patriots sightings -- many of the players were regulars. In his younger years, T.J. could be seen working in the open kitchen at Tom's Tavern. After Tom's Tavern, T.J. opened the Black Rock Cafe (now James' Breakfast and More) and later took helm in the kitchen at The Gavel Public House in downtown Wrentham. T.J. helped make improvements to The Gavel, a restaurant with lots of promise but a much needed culinary direction. That restaurant is now a staple of downtown Wrentham.

Meanwhile, away from the downtown and out in the Midwest-like open fields near scenic Mirror Lake, Connie's Rustic Kitchen, unfortunately, closed several months ago and the building at 303 Shears St was put on the auction block, Ed and T.J. inquired about opening a restaurant after an initial sale fell through.

Shears Avenue in Wrentham, Mass.
Open fields approaching Parker's Pub.

Fortunately, Ed and T.J. found themselves owning a restaurant by opening Parker's Pub several months later in April 2019.

"We had no hesitation in doing this," said Ed. "We didn't want to be anything fancy and this restaurant fit the bill. T.J. is amazing in the kitchen. We know a lot of people in town and we have a super staff. We have been getting the crowds. People want a good neighborhood pub and that's what we are."

The bar at Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
The bar at Parker's Pub.

In just a few short months, Parker's Pub has brought in up to 300 people on peak nights. A huge wings menu with 30 sauce and seasoning options takes the food spotlight here -- and rightfully so, with some of the best tasting wings in the Boston area. Locals, however, also love the other selections (more on that shortly). Acoustic music fills the air on Friday nights while conversations saturate the hometown pub then and all the other times of the week for lunch and dinner.

"We want it to be a fun place," said Ed. "A place to laugh, tap to the music, have fun together. We've got to keep it like that. Friends, family, owner all laughing and no yelling from anyone. There are no soap operas here."

Ed and T.J. didn't feel the need to change the look of Parker's Pub that much, thanks to some nice renovations by Connie's Rustic Kitchen and its predecessor, Mr. Dooley's Pub. The gleaming wood floors, alternatively high and low ceilings with some post and beam elements, booths and handsome bar provide a comfortable setting in the main area.

Parker's Pub dining room in Wrentham, Mass.
Bar and restaurant sections at Parker's Pub.

The alcove in the main dining area -- which used to feature a cozy sitting area at Connie's -- gets a fun makeover at Parker's Pub with a table hockey game...

Table rod hockey game at Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Hockey game at Parker's Pub.

For those that like things a little more quiet away from the bar, Parker's features a sunny separate dining room...

Separate dining room at Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Separate dining room at Parker's Pub.

Ed and T.J. seem like the perfect team to run a local neighborhood restaurant. Ed is laid back and personable -- like the kind of neighbor that holds the best cookouts and has the easy going personality to make everyone feel good. He most recently served as a bartender and general manager at Napper Tandy's in Millis, Mass. There, he worked for owner John Jacob, one of the most capable and decent people in the industry. His presence provided great direction for Ed.

"John is such a great guy," said Ed, 49. "I wouldn't have been able to run a restaurant without the experience I got at Nappers and working with John."

T.J. Gianfrancesco and Ed Moran, owners of Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
T.J. and Ed at Parker's Pub.

T.J. is more intense and direct, but a Type A personality with a heart of gold and a sharp sense of humor.  You could see T.J's intensity and skill at his dad's restaurant and just as much at his own dining spot. His skill comes through hard work as he spent more time in the kitchens than at culinary school.

"Yeah, I attended Johnson and Wales (University in Providence) but didn't stay too long," said T.J. "I thought I was smarter than them. That was a mistake. There are some things I'd like to have back and do differently but, fortunately, things have worked out all right."

Ed and T.J. initially tried to come up with a few names for the restaurant, but quickly settled on Parker's -- named after T.J.'s nine-year-old son, Parker.

Parker's Pub, Wrentham, Massachusetts
Outside at Parker's Pub.

"That was a no brainer," said T.J. "Yeah, we are not big thinkers. Oops, there's a great quote for you. We are not big thinkers. Oh well, you know what I mean. It was the best thing to do naming the restaurant after Parker."

Parker has not taken his local celebrity status lightly.

"He is the biggest fan," said T.J. "At the last parent-teacher conference, the teacher knew more about the restaurant than me."

The Menu: Giving The People What They Want

Parker's Pub has not tried to reinvent the restaurant wheel. Ed and T.J. agree that keeping things simple yields the best results.

For validation of a selection that appeals to the heart, soul and taste buds of a comfort food fan, check out Parker's menu here...

Appetizers menu from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.

Menu from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Massachusetts

The big orange-yellow colored menu certainly looks familiar: wings and nuggets, appetizers, spuds, burgers, sandwiches, salads, pub pizza and main entrees. As previously mentioned, the chicken wings take the menu spotlight with farm fresh wings cooked until crispy and then tossed with one of 30-plus signature sauces. The wings impart a superior taste and even better than many of the long-established restaurants specializing in this popular
chicken dish. Ed and T.J. have covered all bases when it comes to the sauces -- from sweet and mild to savory to sweat-inducing hot.

Burgers are also a highlight, 1/4 lb. of Angus meat cooked on a flat top. The Plympie Burger gets extra points for two reasons. First, it is named after Jeff Plympton who pitched for the Boston Red Sox in 1991 (0.00 ERA in five-plus innings of work!) and is now the Recreation Director for the Town of Wrentham. For the burger fan, the Plympie Burger outdoes the most famous trendy urban burger bars with its juicy taste, sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, fire roasted peppers,  onion and sesame seed bun. Like all other burgers, it can be ordered as a single or a double.

Cheeseburger from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
The Plympie Burger with tater tots from Parker's Pub.

Parker's Pub also features burger specials like the Chara Burger (named after the Boston Bruins star), a three quarter lb. Angus burger with three slices of bacon, onion rings and American cheese, chipotle barbecue sauce and honey mustard all accompanied with waffle fries.

The gargantuan Chara Burger special from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
The Chara Burger special.
Photo source: Parker's Pub Facebook fan page.

The pizza is phenomenal with light, fluffy foccaccia bread, San Marzano tomatoes and a three-cheese blend. It's unlike any other pizza this writer has tasted, in the best sense, with an appealing mix of crunchiness, tangy tomato sauce, a just-right cheese taste and fresh toppings. Here is an absolutely delicious Parker's pub pizza with onions, roasted peppers and shaved steak...

Pub pizza from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Delicious pizza from Parker's Pub.

The salads are made fresh and with innovation as in the case of The Italian Stallion. This mammouth dish includes mixed greens, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a garlic-balsamic glaze. It is accompained by two pieces of grilled garlic toast...

The Italian Stallion salad from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.

Saturdays feature the New York strip sirloin that begs the questions: Why bother pay twice the amount at a high end steak house?

New York strip sirloin at Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Sirloin strip special from Parker's Pub. Photo source: Parker's Pub Facebook fan page.

Another extra special special: the mouthwatering braised short ribs with flavorful cheddar cheese mashed potatoes. The tender short ribs -- marinated in wine for several hours -- are about the best I have ever tasted!

Braised short ribs special with cheddar mashed potatoes from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Braised short ribs special from Parker's Pub.

The bar features a nice selection of beers, wines and cocktails, as well as genuine conversations between the bartenders and patrons. Bartender Kelly Guindon accommodates the customer with the perfect mix of professionalism, friendliness and drink creations skills...

Kelly Guindon works the bar at Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Kelly Guindon works the bar at Parker's Pub.

Here is a recent drinks list from Parker's...

Beer list from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Wine and cocktail menu from Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Additionally, while Parker's doesn't have a children's menu and a dedicated dessert menu, it is definitely family-friendly.

"We are aiming toward the adult crowd," said T.J. "We don't have a kids menu, no crayons and stuff like that. But we are welcoming to families. We have things on the menu that everyone likes no matter what age."


Windowbox with flowers outside Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.
Windowbox outside Parker's Pub.

The commitment to owning a new restaurant results in some significant lifestyle changes. Ed no longer has the time to fully enjoy the aquatic benefits of his lakeside home. T.J. tries to balance home life with a young son and the rigors of working the kitchen and co-owning Parker's Pub.

So, why open a restaurant in the first place? The answer is simple: Ed and T.J. love their hometown, the restaurant industry and serving  family, friends and neighbors while welcoming newcomers from near and far.

Somewhere tonight, locals in small towns and big cities will be chowing down on burgers and wings and enjoying a beer or two. No matter the size of the community, the camaraderie yields friendships, laughs, sense of community, stories told and the chance to let someone else do the cooking. In Wrentham, Parker's Pub is that place and they do as well as if not better than many highly regarded neighborhood pubs in the metro Boston area.

Parker's Pub might not have a long established presence on its side, but on the other hand they most certainly do: Ed and T.J. have brought good things to Wrentham for decades in various chapters of their lives. Now, the first chapter of Parker's Pub has begun and the story seems to be unfolding beautifully. The location is great, too, not only for locals but those shopping a few miles down the road at the Wrentham Outlets, as well as those traveling Route 495 (also just minutes from Parker's off Exit 15 onto Route 1A north).

As Ed looks across his new business with humble admiration, his thoughts quickly go somewhere else. He is off to help his ailing parents.

"I'll be back later," smiled Ed.

At that moment, "Aint Nothing Like the Real Thing," by Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell plays through the speakers. It couldn't have been a more appropriate song to the soundtrack of a new restaurant that acts like that proverbial old friend.  Ed and T.J. set the tone by keeping things so real. You feel like you've known them forever and  that's ultimately what makes Parker's Pub so special. Oh, and the amazing burgers, wings and other comfort foods, too!

"We want to be a pub first," said T.J. "That neighborhood place that everyone knows and likes. It's going very well here."

Parker's Pub is located at 303 Shears St., Wrentham, MA. Tel.  774-210-8168. Log onto the Parker's Pub Facebook Fan Page for more information.

Also near Wrentham: If it's the weekend and you're looking to do a little antiques and shabby chic shopping, head on over to Winsmith Mill Market in Norwood, Mass. Hundreds of vendors on a 27-acre former tannery site!

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New outstanding pub southwest of Boston, Mass.: Parker's Pub in Wrentham, Mass.

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