241 North Collier Boulevard, Marco
Verdi’s…an American Bistro
241 N.Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Phone: 394-5533.
Hours: Serving dinner at 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.
Began working at present restaurant?
When we opened, Nov. 23, 1998
What is it about food that inspired you to become a chef/cook?
Just the enjoyment of it and being around my family. My mom was a chef in Wildwood, N.J., so food was an important part of our lives.
What was your first restaurant job?
The Crestwood Diner, I was 13 and I started my culinary career as a dishwasher.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
About 35 years, give or take a few.
What is the most unusual dish you ever cooked?
Sea urchins. We had a customer request, and I had them flown in from the West Coast. I looked it up (recipes) because I never worked with them, and brought the two recipes I prepared to the customer’s table — but I never had to cook them again.
Are you planning changes to your menu for the summer season?
We have a special menu — Verdi’s Small Plate Menu — very cutting edge and attractively priced. Now, you can’t afford to not to eat here at Verdi’s.
What is the most popular dish on your menu?
Actually, we have two. The grilled New Zealand rack of lamb with a port, lamb jus and mint demi-glaze and pan seared Chilean sea bass we serve with cannellini beans, oven dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, but our small plates are really becoming winners.
What is one food that you’ll never eat? Why?
Intestines. You know, things like organ meats. They were on our family table and I had to eat them. Now that I’m grown I’ll never eat them again.
Who would you like to cook a meal for? Why?
Tom Colicchio of “Top Chef,” because I believe in his honesty and I would like Padma and Tom to critique me.
What is your most essential cooking implement? Why?
A set of knives. You can’t work in a kitchen without them.
What is your favorite TV cooking show?
“Top Chef” and “Iron Chef America.” I really enjoy watching Morimoto.
What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?
An architect because I enjoy drawing and design and I enjoy watching a building rise out of the ground.
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
Non-organization, cleanliness and noise. Everything should be in its place so anyone can grab it.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
See question two — basically it’s the enjoyment I get from cooking for people.