LYNN — You have to take Matt O’Neil’s upbringing into consideration when you hear about how he wants to be around to watch his children grow up.
He’s not just talking passively. He wants to be involved.
That’s the most compelling reason O’Neil gives for his decision to sell the Blue Ox on Oxford Street.
“I remember my parents, and the parents of other kids my age,” said O’Neil Monday. “They were involved. They coached us, watched our games and did all the things that parents do.”
O’Neil was part of a class at Swampscott High that includes Peter Woodfork, who is Joe Torre’s assistant in the Major League Baseball office, ESPN personality Todd McShay, Washington Redskins marketing executive Todd Kline and Barstool Sports personality Dave Portnoy. All of them played sports and all of them grew up the same way.
Now it’s O’Neil’s turn.
“These hours (in the restaurant business) aren’t the best for raising kids,” said O’Neil, who still owns Ledger in Salem. “Right now, I’m coaching football (his son, Miles’, team in the Swampscott Cape Ann Youth Football League) and for me, that’s important. I want to watch both my kids (he has an 8-year-old daughter, Mirabel, as well). They’re only young once, and it goes by just like that.
“It’s time for me to relieve that night time work load,” he said.
O’Neil, who has owned the Blue Ox for 10 years, is just selling the business.
The buyer is Anthony Caturano, for whom he once worked during his early years in the restaurant business. The establishment will change hands in September.
O’Neil did not disclose the selling price.
Caturano also owns Prezza, which is in Boston’s North End; and Tonno in Gloucester and Wakefield.
O’Neil said that the current staff at the Blue Ox will remain, and the menu will stay the same.
“The Blue Ox is incredibly meaningful to me,” O’Neil said. “For the last 10 years, we have been lucky to be a part of this community. The team at The Blue Ox is my family, and it’s with trust and pride that I pass the torch to Anthony to lead them into this next chapter. I know that he will continue to be successful and to honor what my team has built here.”
Caturano looks forward to leading The Blue Ox into its next decade and promises to continue the spot’s tradition as a neighborhood gathering place.
“Matt and I became fast friends when he took a job as a line cook at Prezza a number of years ago,” Caturano said. “It was during that time that I noticed his outstanding talent and character.
“I can only hope to maintain the level of excellence he’s achieved with food and drinks, but more so with the community that The Blue Ox has built over the years,” he said.
“The restaurant is similar to Prezza and Tonno in that it is both a neighborhood place, but also a destination. We have big shoes to fill, but with this team in tow, I’ll be learning from the best; we could not be more excited to be part of The Blue Ox brand.”
O’Neil said it helped knowing Caturano as well as he did.
“I wasn’t going to sell this place to just anybody,” he said.