Making History...One Generation and Diner at a Time

Living the Ridgway by Tony Ridgway

The first days of 2012 are continuing to support the optimism generated by a record setting holiday period for Ridgway Bar & Grill. Not only was the level of business terrific, but the performance by the entire staff was remarkable. Thanks to all and I mean everyone. The first rule a restaurant operator must learn is to believe in others and ask them to perform. That maxim has never more evident than in the beginning weeks of 2012.

Borrowed from the Past

While my eyes are constantly fixed on how to stay creative in the kitchen and keep palates from all generations happy, I must admit that regardless of how many new items or atmospheres I debut, it always comes back to one thing: That we've been able to create a consistently joyful dining experience for over 40 years.

How? I believe it's because we remain focused on not just the quality of our ingredients and attention to preparation, (and our wine selections) but also on making sure the ambience enhances the occasion. Sukie and I were just talking about how important the little details are: like making sure our tables enjoy a little elbow room, ample mood lighting and music, accommodating for breezes, glare and temperature, and of course that every seat enjoys a good view. While other eateries may fail to pay attention to the details, we believe they are the hallmarks of staying competitive. In fact, I believe our ability to provide a dining experience that stands above the rest in ambience and cuisine is the biggest reason we enjoy such a great repeat customer base. (more about how I'm serving the needs of younger generations below)

A History of Charity

January will be busy for Sukie and I as we are the Honorary Chairs for this year's YMCA of the Palms Sneaker Ball. The event is the largest annual fundraiser for the Naples YMCA. The YMCA staff and Sneaker Ball committee are working hard to make this year's event memorable with amazing and rare auction items and stellar entertainment. In addition to encouraging support and attendance, Sukie and I are also catering the Ball.

An interesting fact about the YMCA and Sukie and myself is that we've all been a part of the community for a long time. Over the years the Y has been guided by many of Naples preeminent leaders. Sukie has been directly involved in several leadership roles at the Y for over 22 years, and both of us have supported them through a variety of in-kind donations.

Strong leadership drives the Y's success. Its programs strengthen families through its leadership. In addition, it supports thousands children through childcare, sports and after school programs. And while the tepid economy has affected charitable giving goals, the Y continues to enjoy commitment from leaders that are steadfast to see it remain a valuable asset in our community.

Our message to those who have been leaders or anyone who has enjoyed the Y's services or programs is to please STEP UP. Sukie and I are happy to contribute and happy to work with Brandon Dowdy and his staff at the YMCA to hopefully regenerate tons of local support and moreover to renew that feeling of being involved in a local project at its grass roots.

With that in mind, we felt a strong connection with the Y during our recent 40th Anniversary celebration this past November, and will present a check to the agency at the Ball from dinner proceeds we collected from you over those four days. Proceeds from the Sneaker Ball support the YMCA scholarship fund. The party is on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at the YMCA of the Palms gymnasium. We'd love to see you there. Purchase tickets HERE.

Moving Generations

On the restaurant front, we have so many good things going on right now. Each night we see our most valued long-term customers and get a chance each day to meet our new guests, some of whom will become our best new customers. I look at the history reports each day and love seeing the repeat visitors. I also look at the new guests trying to discern who will be that next best customer.

Our friend Jonathan Foerster, an editor at Gulfshore Life Magazine blogged last month about young diners of Naples often being spurned by Naples fine dining restaurants. I hope we are not on that list and for all the young of Naples - we'd love to have you learn the nuances of fine dining at Ridgway Bar & Grill and Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar.

I tend to notice when groups in their late twenties or early thirties dine with us. Those that young do skew our average age, but great food is a fabulous way of life. I remember introducing well-prepared food to a group of first year college students a few years ago. The room was quiet and the attention span was tenuous at best until they tasted the first item. After that it was "Let's eat all we can get," and then they wanted to talk about nothing else but how to prepare good food.

Of interest to our younger clients will be the new Courtyard Bar. If you've visited us lately, you'll see that the courtyard area in front of Tony's Off Third has undergone a minor transformation. We've installed a state-of-the-art surround sound system that allows us to select different genre of music based on the time of day and clientele preference. We also officially built a real full bar and are now offering a very casual menu starting at 5pm, and just in the courtyard. The menu can be found .

In early January, we hosted the Ferrari Club of Naples' first event of the year. Over a dozen pristine and beautiful Ferrari's and their owners took over the street parking on 13th Avenue and enjoyed fresh pastries, Mimosas & Bloody Mary's at the Courtyard Bar. We were also busy that morning replenishing coffee & baked goods at our booth in the Farmer's Market on 3rd Street. Check out pictures from the event on our Facebook page.

Truffles Inspired

It's true! There is a rumor that the Truffles Tuna Caesar is on the new Courtyard Bar at Ridgway menu. We invite you to come check it out. Another thing about the Truffles Tuna Caesar salad: the dressing is better that ever. I worked with Gary to take the flavor profile up a little. The Tuna Caesar is available ONLY IN THE COURTYARD. We're dangling that carrot under your nose to get some of you out there.

The bar is totally outside and subject to vagaries of the weather. It's open 6 nights a week (closed Mondays). Sukie and I look forward to having you join us there some evening. No reservations, no pretense and just a simple light-fare menu. Sandy feet welcome and shorts and flip flops appear to be the style of the day.

Another new development worthy of note are the brioche donuts. Have you tried my brioche donuts yet? Perfect and light enough for a late night snack. They are the best and available at Ridgway in the evening and in the Courtyard.

Come by and say hi to our courtyard bar staff and sit under the starts and talk with you friends. Hope to see you soon and to talk about food and fun.

-Tony

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