FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski won’t have too much time to visit his favorite spots when he returns to town with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).
But if he did?
It might simply be a walk through the miles of wooded trails in Foxborough. If he stayed up late, hot dogs and coffee milk would probably be on the menu. And that could come after taking in a movie at Patriot Place in a plush reclining chair that turned into one of his best friends over the years.
Gronkowski came to appreciate a lot of things during his time with the Patriots (2010-19), which was the essence of a recent chat with ESPN.com that highlights a different side of the 32-year-old tight end.
When you travel back to Foxborough, outside of your home, what is one place you have to visit?
Gronkowski: “I would say hiking through the trails. There’s a state park in Foxborough (F. Gilbert Hills) where a lot of people go. I also go mountain biking in the woods throughout those trails. You get fresh air, can go around the lake, which is a beautiful view. During the season, I would do it on a day off here and there. In the offseason, it would sometimes be five times a week — just clear your mind, enjoy nature, the boat rides, there’s always people canoeing and boating in the lake. You can just sit on the benches and it’s a good way to clear your mind. So that’s definitely something I have to do when I’m back.”
Best season in New England and why?
Gronkowski: “I’d go with summertime. It’s beautiful there. Everything is popping. In the other seasons, everyone is kind of bundled up because it’s colder, but once summer hits, it’s just mayhem. A free-for-all. A great atmosphere overall, with so many places to go to in New England — from the city of Boston to the Cape, to Newport, to Rhode Island and all the beaches there, and all the way up to New Hampshire.”
Gronkowski: “Going up to Lake Winnipesaukee [in New Hampshire]. Just a great time.”
Dinner plans, what is the first stop?
Gronkowski: “In Foxborough, I’d go to Tavolino’s. I would just love to order on my phone and go up there to the pickup window. That was one of my favorite things to do for food. Overall, there’s many good eats in Boston. Strega Waterfront was one of my favorite spots for the food and atmosphere. In the North End, Arya [Trattoria].”
Charity event you miss the most?
Gronkowski: “I would say the One Mission event at Patriot Place when I buzzed my head. That was always a good one, with so many kids there. They always looked up to me, and we were raising about $1 million a year at one point before the pandemic hit. It was a lot of fun, too, with the music popping.”
Do you go Foxboro or Foxborough?
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Gronkowski: “Definitely the ‘boro.’ I always thought that’s what it was, and then the first time I saw the ‘ough,’ I thought it was spelled wrong. I was like, ‘No, that’s not how you spell it.’ That’s when I realized it was spelled both ways.”
There’s the little corner gas station and convenience store on the first corner by the stadium. When you stopped there, what were you picking up?
Gronkowski: “It’s either gas, water or a hydration drink.”
Best part of Boston?
Gronkowski: “I would say the duck boats. A lot of great food and restaurants, but those duck boats are famously awesome.”
Best part of Providence?
Gronkowski: “I used to go to Federal Hill a lot, because they have a lot of great food. I like the homemade Italian food. I would say the best part about it is the homemade pink vodka sauce. That was always my favorite. And my favorite late-night place to eat, hands down, is [Olneyville] New York System — with the hot dogs and the coffee milk there. … Let me tell you, it’s delicious.”
Favorite part of Gillette Stadium/Patriot Place?
Gronkowski: “I would say the movie theater with the reclining chairs, with the section up top. That was my spot. Whenever I wanted to watch a movie, or get away, I’d go up there. That was the first time I’d ever experienced reclining chairs at a movie theater, and it was just mind-blowing. I probably did it 100 times.”
The main thing you don’t miss about New England?
Gronkowski: “The crappy, ‘in between’ weather. When it’s about 40 degrees, and raining, and cloudy. … it just throws everything off and feels eerie.”
And the thing you miss the most?
Gronkowski: “Going to the Celtics games. They would hook us up, front row. Just to go check out an NBA game, being right there on the court, was always really cool.”