Chef Anthony "Radar" Risoli is a true Italian American with a passion for cooking. His route to the kitchen has been long and arduous, so now, he says, he's here to stay at SoLita.
The modern lounge ambiance attracts the young and the beautiful while Risoli cranks out dishes with a new take on Italian flavors.
We had a chance to sit with "Radar," and over a bowl of his signature Trottole Buon Gusto, we learned about his past and his present and what to expect from SoLita now that the season kicks off full force.
New Times: Is "Radar" a nickname from your childhood? What does it mean?
Anthony Risoli: When I was in high school, everyone called me Radar because I looked like Cpl. "Radar" O'Reilly from M*A*S*H.
We did some research and found that you have degree in elementary education. How did you get started in the restaurant business?
I went into education because I wanted to be a basketball coach. I taught some first and sixth grade and started substitute teaching,
and, like so many, I worked nights as a busboy to make extra money at
this little Italian place called the Saloon in Philadelphia.
How did you make the transition from busing tables to working in a kitchen?
always loved what went on in the kitchen; they had all this beautiful
food, and that is where the action was. I thought it was really cool. Then there was a strike, and the chef left, so they brought in a chef
from Venice who let me start working my way up through the kitchen.
What brought you to South Florida?
love being near the water. I grew up spending summers in an Italian
seaside town, and I've always had some family in Florida that I've been
coming down to visit. Can't beat the weather!
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Do you cook at home?
I like to make low-maintenance and simple dishes. I am not a cleaner, so I try to keep it to one pot. These days, I've been making some paellas and other rice dishes. Just basics that taste good.
Do you have any guilty snack-food pleasure?
I love Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. I can eat a whole bag in a sitting.
Who would you love to have dinner with?
That's easy: Francis Ford Coppola. I admire his deep Italian heritage and his love of food, his movies, his wines... I could go on.
The name of the restaurant is Solita, or "South of Little Italy." Have you spent any time in Little Italy?
I have been around Italian food all my life and have always hit up the Little Italy sections of any city I am in. My favorite is Boston's North End. It's a beautiful area. They've really held on to traditions, and the food there is amazing.
Tomorrow we'll talk to Chef Risoli about the SoLita concept and what's in store for the coming months.