247 North Collier Boulevard, Marco
Executive Chef/Owner, The Italian Deli & Market, South Seas Plaza, 247 N. Collier Blvd. Phone: 394-9493. Summer hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday for pizza and subs to go.
Began working at present restaurant?
In 1995, when I opened The Italian Deli.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?
The desire to eat good food combined with the ability to succeed at whatever I set my mind on.
What was your first restaurant job?
A deli in New York. Here on Marco Island, I was the Marriott’s banquet chef/ manager for five years until 1995 when I opened The Italian Deli and catering business. A few years earlier, my wife, Susan, and I helped my sister Judy and Arturo open their restaurant.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
About 40 years, give or take a few years
How would you describe your cooking style?
Extremely traditional. Primo fresh ingredients simply prepared can’t be beat when it comes to taste. The quality of our food and our personalized service is the best you’ll find anywhere or here on the island.
What is your most popular dish?
I never thought I’d come to Florida and make a living selling soup, but seriously, the reputation of The Italian Deli is built on our best sellers — my homemade soups and sandwiches. But you can point to any section of our menu and come up with a winner. Since November, when we finished installing the commercial brick-lined, gas-fired oven our hand-thrown 16-inch pizzas have been really popular. We only make that size but we offer a dozen combinations of toppings. Right now, I’m really excited about our newest items — authentic homemade calzone and stromboli — that I’m offering as specials now. They will be included on our new menu that comes out late September. Also, we’ll post new hours for the beginning of the fall season.
What is your favorite food?
Steak. Being a butcher, Bobby Flay has nothing on me. I’ve been cooking on the grill longer than him.
Do you cook at home? If so, what would we always find in your fridge or freezer?
Yes, fresh herbs all the time along with plenty of steaks, Gulf shrimp and Maine lobster flown in live from Boston.
What is your secret ingredient? Why?
It’s no secret — love and the desire to cook good food.
What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I’d be working in Vegas casinos with my Brooklyn pals.
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
Lack of space
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
Make people happy with good food served with a smile.