Builder Chris Ragusa designed his own dream kitchen for cooking and entertaining

If you’ve ever wanted to get a dinner invite from someone you barely know, you’ll know: Chris Ragusa’s Sunday Supper is the holy grail of weekend feasting. Ragusa, the principal of CM Ragusa Builders, inherited recipes from his Italian grandmother and likes to cook big dinners on Sunday afternoons, especially on cool fall days.

Ragusa is best known as a contractor of fine homes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. But recreating childhood meals is very important to him and his family. Until last year, however, there was a big problem. The kitchen of his house in Newburyport was too small and lacked the features to allow him to cook efficiently. After all, hungry guests can only wait so long.

“We had a beautiful kitchen, but it wasn’t big enough,” says Ragusa. Island couldn’t get comfortable over dinner with his wife, Holly Ragusa, and their two teenage daughters, who attend Newburyport High School. When the couple hosted a large group, there were inevitable consequences: splashes of red sauce, from processing tomatoes and cooking, on the stove and everything nearby. The kitchen of the small traditional Colonial also did not flow gracefully into the living room and dining room.

Today, with a brand new kitchen, Ragusa hardly remembers how he managed to cook before. The new kitchen is more than double in size. The island has nearly doubled in size: The new island is eight square feet, beautiful walnut topped with SileStone in the style of Eternal Calacatta Gold – offering plenty of space for casual dining. The entire renovation, led by Newburyport architect Scott M. Brown, added 800 square feet to the original home’s 3,000-square-foot footprint.

With the extra space, the Ragusas got bigger counters and a lot more storage space. “I basically made very deep drawers,” says Ragusa. “A typical countertop is 24 inches deep, so you get a drawer the same size. These are 30 inch cabinets. It also created a large opening between the kitchen and the adjacent living room.

In the old kitchen, Ragusa often distributes the preparation of the table in the dining room, mainly occupying two rooms. Working with one oven meant his planning had to be impeccable. “There was never enough room,” he says.

The new kitchen features a 30-inch wide refrigerator and freezer, both by Thermador. Ragusa also has two ovens equipped for standard and convection baking. One also offers steam cooking. The island has a built-in faucet lift and a built-in TV, both of which disappear at the touch of a button.

The extra room and improved features have dramatically reduced stress levels and workload for the chef. Under the direction of Frances G Hodges of FGH Interiors in Newmarket, New Hampshire, the interior of the space creates an elegant, relaxed setting. White oak flooring; light, creamy color palette; and artful details, such as the tiled mosaic on the stove, are a testament to Hodges’ fine art.

Outside the kitchen’s French doors, just one step down, is an expansive raised patio for alfresco dining. “We wanted a really accessible outdoor space,” says Ragusa, which is also a request from many of his clients. It’s a brick beauty in a herringbone pattern. Near the pool is a stone fire pit by longtime colleague Seth Donaldson and a DCS grill.

In cool weather, the efficiency, ease and tranquility of the new indoor kitchen shines when Ragusa cooks its traditional Sunday dinner – especially for anyone who knows the labor involved in making Italian dinners from scratch. The red sauce (or “gravy”) sits on the stove for hours. Later in the day, Ragusa prepares homemade meatballs and a starter, often a nice piece of halibut. Next comes the turn of the green salad. His Uncle Michael and Aunt Marcia bring Italian bread and “lobster tails,” crispy shells filled with cream pudding batter and sweet whipped cream and ricotta cheese.

While most chefs would turn white at the cooking that goes into this menu, Ragusa considers this a Sunday dinner staple: “I like simple things.” And she always includes her grandmother Marian’s secrets. Will Ragusa consider revealing one or two? “No,” he says politely, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”

Learn more about the project team

Builder: CM Ragusa Builders
Architecture: Scott Brown
Interior design: Interiors by Francis G. Hodges
Outdoor fireplace: S. Donaldson Freemasonry
Outdoor grill: DCS

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