I was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts. It’s a town known for its fishing fleets, the seafood industry and a high concentration of Portuguese Americans. When I grew up, I wanted to be a teacher. I believe that I have parlayed that with my career as a chef. The role of a teacher is to let students, in this case my employees, know what the expectations are for the routines and procedures of the kitchen and the front of the house. I expect my employees to be responsible, respectful and honest, and to give their best efforts, which helps them follow the routines and procedures that we have in place. Teaching and coaching my employees on a daily basis ensures a smooth, consistent operation.
My most formative mentors have been my parents first and foremost. Secondly would be John Manning. I met John when I began my culinary career at the Pepper Mill Restaurant in 1991 after graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. John would have special requests for the kitchen when he came in. After several months, John asked to meet me to thank me. During the conversation, John asked, “What would the young man like to do in the future?” I told him I’d like to study in France. John was a Long Island, New York, retiree who had no local family and he gave me the money as if I was his son. Shortly after that introduction, I was studying culinary arts in Paris at the Cordon Bleu, France’s iconic culinary institute.
My business philosophy is that nothing comes easy, and you need to work hard for what you want. The key to creating an exceptional meal is not only to include layers of flavor, but also to have a beautifully set table, great conversation and the memories that come with sharing a meal. The elements that make up a successful restaurant are consistently striving to be better, as well as investing in employees with continual training. My most surprising hobby or skill is my ability to fix almost anything in the restaurant.
My favorite dish at On Swann is the hot chicken – crispy tenders, spicy buttermilk, paprika honey butter and romesco aioli. My favorite dish at OLIVIA is Cacio e pepe – black pepper spaghetti, butter and pecorino foam. What will set Ponte Tampa (coming soon) apart is the dining experience from start to finish, unique dishes, quality of service and the atmosphere. My specialty when cooking for family or friends is fresh pasta with tomato and fresh basil. It’s a simple dish, but elegant. My future plans include opening a Bare Naked Kitchen in Tampa, an OLIVIA in Lakewood Ranch and an East Coast Seafood Restaurant.
When describing the Tampa Bay area to others, I say that it is a hidden gem full of diversity. We have a tri-area that includes St. Pete, which is an artsy area similar to San Francisco, the beaches in Clearwater, which remind me of Venice, California, and Tampa, which reminds me of Los Angeles. Of course, most importantly we are the home to the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup champions.
Most people would be surprised to know that I am an avid golfer with a 9 handicap. The biggest item on my bucket list is to golf at St. Andrews Links in the United Kingdom. St. Andrews is regarded as “the home of golf” and is one of the oldest courses in the country.
The biggest honor of my life has been when Michelle said yes to my proposal. My perfect day would be a Sunday that includes church, golf with Michelle, takeout from Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, a great bottle of wine and Sunday night football.