When Tony D's chef/owner Jay Speranza was growing up in Rochester, New York, the family kitchen was an important part of his day-to-day life.
These days, Speranza is spending more time is professional kitchens, including that of the South Florida expansion of his Rochester-based Italian eatery, which launched an outpost in Fort Lauderdale last month. The 199-seat restaurant, open daily for dinner, specializes in classic Italian-American fare, with many homestyle recipes created by Speranza and executed by the establishment's head chef, Sean Kelley.
That includes an extensive menu of
Happy-hour menu items include polpettine (three house-made baby meatballs served in marinara sauce with Pecorino-Romano and Parmesan cheeses);
New Times recently caught up with the self-taught chef.
New Times: What inspired you to become a chef?
Jay Speranza: Food was always central to
What is the first important dish you remember making?
The first dish I remember being really proud of — and knowing that it was going to impress someone — was a grilled venison leg with fresh huckleberries, a red wine gastrique, braised mustard greens, and smoked ham hock.
What's your favorite meal to cook at home?
For myself, scrambled eggs with butter and olive oil and a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano. For
What's your favorite dish on the Tony D's menu right now?
Hard to say, as we put so much into making every dish stand out, including our nightly specials. But if I were to pick just one, it would be our Saturday-night feature, which is traditionally a veal osso buco (a Milanese
Besides your restaurant, of course, where's your favorite establishment to eat and drink?
I usually keep things local, and there are some really great spots right in our area.
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Any favorite food trends?
It's been trending for some time, but I expect even more of a proliferation of chef takes on Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine as it continues to become more of a mainstream dining experience at more upscale venues than we have traditionally seen in the past.
What is your best advice for new chefs trying to make it in the biz?
Don't just do it for the paycheck. Make sure you are in it with all the heart, soul, passion, and commitment you can muster. To quote an old catchphrase from the army recruitment office: "It's not just a job. It's an adventure."
Tony D's is located at 3300 NE 32nd St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-440-2151, or visit tonyds.net.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.