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Cheap eats

What to relish of routine

(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / October 14, 2009

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You get the feeling when you walk into Greg’s Restaurant that you’ve passed through the doors of a private club, populated by people who come here every week. An older crowd packs the bar on a Thursday night, and the dining room is nearly full, though things empty out a bit after the early-bird special expires. Diners sitting at different tables greet each other, and there’s a small reunion playing out in the tiny lounge.

A priest wearing his collar and two older men fold themselves into a booth near us. A table on our other side is occupied by a woman and her mother. We know this because another patron recognizes them and asks, “Is this mother-daughter night?’’ Another day at lunch, our waitress simultaneously takes our order and contributes to the conversation of the women at the table next to us, telling them about the grandchildren of someone they all know.

Eating at Greg’s doles out a certain kind of comfort, the kind you get from eating lots of carbs and being repeatedly called “Honey.’’ We don’t always love the food, but we always feel well cared for by our waitresses, who managed to be both warm and efficient. Probably nothing much has changed in a long time at Greg’s, which opened in 1933, and where owners Paul and John Diliberto - the fourth generation of their family to run the restaurant - are also the chefs. Tablecloths are red-checked, walls wood-paneled, music easy listening from the ’80s and beyond.

Greg’s food arrives in servings that range from huge to gargantuan. The lunch version of eggplant Parmigiana ($7.80) is hefty, with both a salad and a heaping side of pasta. Iceberg salad, with a few rings of red onion, two black olives, and a single cherry tomato, is forgettable. We like toasted ravioli appetizer (below, $5.75), fried crisp with a hint of spice, and served with a marinara dipping sauce. Shrimp cocktail ($8.75 for six giant shrimp) comes with a nicely tangy cocktail sauce. Ravioli Parmigiana ($7.25) is thick and heavy and the fried shrimp scampi ($9.30), though true to its menu description, is fried and breaded into blandness. The dinner menu has the more traditional, non-breaded version ($14.50).

Also at dinner, stuffed shrimp ($14.50) arrives charred. A side of mushrooms ($3.25) is happily old-fashioned, sauteed in butter. The clams in the clam sauce with linguini ($12.50) are a bit chewy but as a whole, the dish isn’t bad. Desserts, not made in-house, vary. Our favorite is the Italian lemon cream cake ($4) with a thick lemon filling. When we leave, we squeeze past another family coming in. The bar is still crowded, the parking lot full. Some things never change - and these customers like it that way.

KATHLEEN BURGE

GREG’S RESTAURANT 821 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, 617-491-0122. Most major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices $2.75-$15

Hours Mon-Sat 11:15 a.m.-10 p.m.

Liquor Full bar.

May we suggest Toasted ravioli, eggplant Parmigiana, Italian lemon cream cake.

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