News from Tony Ridgway, Summer 2013

A Four Legged Friend at Ridgway Bar & Grill!

A Four Legged Friend at Ridgway Bar & Grill!

Welcome to the dog days of summer in Naples. In addition to being the first day of summer, today is also Bring Your Dog to Work day so in recognition of this furry holiday, Ridgway Bar & Grill is celebrating it by encouraging all our year-round friends with dogs to join us for dinner on the front porch! Complimentary bones for all four-legged guests.

Summer Blues Busters

Ridgway wants to help you beat the summer blues and has created a few delicious reasons to visit us all summer long.

Back by popular demand, Tony is offering his special Crispy Fish on the last   Friday of each month. Join us June 28 & July 26 where you can get this great dish for $29. Call for reservations and tell us how many you would like. We’ll have a limited number available for walk-ins. For those who remember: This dish was a Truffles classic! Make a reservation NOW!

Sunday Brunch will continue to be served from 10AM-2PM throughout the summer.

Looking for a value? Try our new $27.95 Three-course Prix Fixe dinner menu, offered in addition to our regular menu, seven days a week, all night long, during the summer.

Enjoy Happy Hour at both the Ridgway Bar and The Courtyard Bar from 4PM-6PM daily. Happy Hour will include half-price on house wines, well drinks and domestic beer.

No discounts, coupons or promotions can be used in addition to the above specials.

19th Annual Summer Sippin’
Friday, July 19, 2013
5:30 to 7 PM

Join us for this special annual event and enjoy 25 wines all personally selected by Sukie.
$20 per person with a $10 coupon toward your purchase of the evening’s

Crispy Fish

Crispy Fish

featured wines.
Click here to see a list of the wine and to Register for this event.

We Love You Just the Way You Are

The old adage “If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it,” seems to be very much on the minds of many people these days, and is playing out in the headlines of our local newspapers with virtually every new edition.

It was also very much on my and my business partners’ minds almost twenty years ago, which is why I’m compelled to share my point of view on a topic that, for the community, goes bone deep.

In 1995-96, the decision makers (myself included) of The Chef’s Garden and Truffles perceived that things were broken. So in a naïve move our solution was to toss them out and rename and rebrand the place as Terra.

We didn’t make this decision lightly. Terra was a well thought-out change. Numerous hours were put in by a collection of public relations professionals, marketers and very astute and knowledgeable people who joined forces to create this new image. Our objective was to adapt so we could be positioned to do well for the next decades to come.

Nice idea…but it did not work.

Obviously, my Terra story is reflective of what we’re seeing at the Naples Philharmonic (aka Artis-Naples, aka the Phil). Over the last 40 years, I’ve been involved in helping many entities that faced the “Is it really broken issue.” My guess is that the recent recession had an adverse affect on The Phil, as it did for all of us. It’s also possible the original funders (or founders) were tiring of feeding the kitty and perhaps also tired of being the sole supporters of what they created. The Phil was in no way broken irreparably. Did it need a major kick in the seat? I have no idea. What I do know is that the current scenario is basically untenable.

Because of the Terra experience, I also know that any alteration of a recognizable brand, especially in a small community like ours, can have a huge and perpetual backlash.

So then why, when faced with an image challenge, do we too often think that throwing out the baby with the bathwater is the solution? Instead of creating a new image, we should be looking inward and outward to determine the real reasons for whatever maladies exist.

I admit, I don’t know all the details of what’s going on over at Artis-Naples, and most of us probably will never truly know the reasons for the brand change, or the impetus that necessitated a change. But I am certain that the mess they created looks very similar to the one we created some seventeen years ago, and for this I give my empathy.

It’s unfortunate because I know parties on both sides of the fence well. I admire Myra Daniels for everything she accomplished and single-handedly created. I wish the board had reached out to veteran businesses owners in the area like myself to gain a better understanding of the public’s temperament before employing such a drastic change.

The simple reality is that The Chef’s Garden and The Phil might have been a little broken and perhaps needed a little cosmetic work – but a drastic abandonment of a beloved brand was not the answer.

Like the Phil board, our intentions were great: a new image and new concept to face the future. Yet in reality, all we should have done was think very hard about our own failings and take care of them. That is what lasting institutions do.

The bruises have healed for us and I love where Ridgway Bar & Grill and Tony’s Off Third are today. I consider myself fortunate that the law of unintended consequences brought us on this very circuitous path. It was a tough lesson, but a necessary one as it helped us become better at what we do.

And yet hardly a day goes by that Truffles is not mentioned. For nostalgia, there is a little sign in the garden that says “The Chef’s Garden” in its trademark pink and green color scheme. A daily reminder in an idyllic place!

The restaurant world and the music world share much in common. We’re both here to entertain and please our guests and to enrich their lives.

The Artis -Naples will survive. I’m not sure where it all will go, but I sense the hyperbole is only building and that its bruises will take some time to heal.

For me, I now know that subtle and meaningful change is often the best solution.

And that’s why on June 1st of each year I begin the process of planning the next year’s menu. It is also the time when I reflect on the past year and where we stand. Sometimes I make substantive changes to the menu to be certain we are current with food trends. Last year I worked extensively on Ridgway’s menu and this year Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar is the target for some updating.

Every year I also meet with the cooks and talk about processes and procedures. We discuss how to cook each product and what to look for in detail. We also adapt some of the flavor profiles and this nurtures our creativity. We have fun re-learning the basics.

I live in the Satchel Paige world where I simply assume there is someone trying to gain on me and ultimately pass me by! I do look over my shoulders, however. With all of the new restaurants opening, and some I’ve been to have excellent food, it is important to keep up and always try to improve.

I certainly don’t want to repeat the past where we closed two classic Naples institutions in order to open my only regrettable restaurant. Sometimes we forget where we are and how we got there. Thankfully, we can learn from our past mistakes and avoid the behavior and decisions that caused them. I wish our friends at Artis-Naples had the same foresight.

I look forward to seeing you soon at Ridgway Bar & Grill and Tony’s off Third and celebrating food and wine and our common love of all arts.

Your Friend,
Tony
________________________________________________________________________________

Sukie Recommends…
Nisia Old Vines Verdejo
There are currently four Spanish grapes, all indigenous to Spain, that are creating sensational wines: Verdejo, Viura, Albarino and Godello. Sometimes winemakers make blends from various combination of these grapes, other times they create single varietal bottlings. The Nisia is 100% Verdejo that is sourced from old vines in Rueda. The wine is fermented in large oak barrels as well as stainless steel tanks. It has flavors of orange blossom and citrus, offers complexity and finishes dry.

Our Price: $18.50

 

 

News from Tony Ridgway,Spring 2013

Tony Ridgway Chef and Owner of Ridgway Bar & Grill

A Season of Change

Welcome to off-season and summer. It was fast and furious around Ridgway from November through this past week. We saw lots of unseasonable and unusual weather that created some unique dining venues. Tony’s Off Third  Pastry & Wine Shop was transformed into a dining room on numerous occasions and much enjoyed by a fortunate few. Summer seems to have arrived a little early; hopefully we’ll see another cool break before the real heat is here to stay.

Thanks to our staff for their wonderful performance this season. They make it look easy and it is not! Thanks to all of our long-time guests too for their very frequent visits and to all who took the time to enjoy even just one meal. I’ve seen tons of locals over the past few weeks who are happily reclaiming their town and restaurants. Happily many are coming to see us.

Monday, April 29th will signify the official start of the Summer Season. It will also be the celebration of what would have been my mother’s 98th birthday. I’ll make a toast in her honor that day and know that many of you remember her fondly and will do the same.

Queenswreath2

Queenswreath

For the past few days the Queens Wreath has been a spectacular sight in the garden. Sunday’s downpour took some of the color, but it is still beautiful.

Dinner in the garden may be at its peak, as the warm evenings, low humidity and gentle breezes provide the perfect environment.

We have lots of events and ideas for the next few months and for the summer season too. Here’s a look at what we currently have planned:

Crispy Fish

Crispy Fish

Calling all Crispy Fish fans…we will begin to offer our famous Crispy Fish on the last Friday of each month, starting Friday, April 26th for $29. Call for reservations and tell us how many you would like. We’ll have a limited number available for walk-ins – but no guarantee as it’s a time-sensitive dish to prepare. For those who remember: This dish was a Truffles classic! Check out “Sukie Recommends” below to find out what wine goes great with this dish. Make a reservation NOW!

 

On Friday, May 3rd & Friday, May 10th we will have live music outside at the Courtyard Bar. This will be in conjunction with Naples City Fest. Hours will be 7PM to 10PM.

On Tuesday, May 7th Jim Badger will return to Ridgway Bar & Grill for a one- night performance. The show will begin at 9:00PM. Jim will arrive early to say hi to his many friends.

This will be a great opportunity for fellow Jim Badger fans. So many of you have asked about Jim in the past few years, so here is your chance to enjoy him at Ridgway one more time. There will be ticket charge of $35.00 per person for the event. All food and beverage is additional.

Priority seating will be given to those who make dinner reservations. Diners should be finished eating by 9PM so please reserve accordingly. Reminder: there will be no admission to the restaurant for Jim’s show without a ticket. Payment of the tickets must be made in advance and in person or by phone. When you call to reserve the tickets, we will take your credit card number and your email address and will send you a confirmation email for your ticket purchases. Please bring this email with you when you arrive for the show. Sorry, no refunds. Please call the restaurant to reserve your tickets and dinner reservations at 239/262.5500.

Changes for the Summer

Sunday Brunch will continue to be served from 10AM-2PM throughout the summer. Our Saturday Brunch will take a short summer vacation and return next October.

Looking for a value? Try our new $27.95 Three-course Prix Fixe dinner menu, offered in addition to our regular menu, seven days a week, all night long, during the summer and starting Monday, April 29th.

Enjoy Happy Hour at both the Ridgway Bar and The Courtyard Bar from 4PM-6PM daily starting Monday, April 29th. Happy Hour will include half-price on house wines, well drinks and domestic beer.

No discounts, coupons or promotions can be used in addition to the above specials.

Let’s Talk

Naples has had a very good year and we hope we’ll see many local business owners this summer. It will be fun to talk about the local economy is a positive way!

I’m beginning to think menus and will be playing with gluten-free flour this summer.

I look forward to seeing you in the next weeks and we can talk food, wine and slower paced days and nights.

Your Friend,
Tony

Sukie Recommends…

J. Bookwalter Notebook Riesling, 2011
This Columbia Valley dry riesling is a perfect match for Tony’s Crispy Fish. Orange blossoms on the nose, tangerine on the palate, coupled with some spice and minerality ~ all complement the sweet and sour sauce that makes this entree so intriguing and yummy! This wine is offered by the glass as well, which allows you to “switch gears” (if you start off with a cocktail or beer) when your entree is served.

By the glass: $9
By the bottle: $36

The Personal Touch Effect

I was talking with a guest at the inside bar the other night and she hesitated during our conversation to search for the perfect word to describe the restaurant. After a long pause, she finally said “personal.”

I liked her choice. It very much describes what Tony’s and Ridgway are all about.

Our wine selections are made by Sukie with her personal tastes as the guide. 
She is often in Tony’s to personally help wine buyers.

Likewise, my menus measure my personal taste and style views at a point in time. Over the holidays, I had many opportunities to discuss the menus with our guests. I love doing that and our guests seem to as well.

The garden, one of Wynne’s passions, is very personal, needing hours of care each day. When it gets attention, it makes us proud.

The spring season in the garden is showing serious signs of arrival. The Jasmine vine has its first blooms, and the orchids have almost seventy new spikes with the first expected to bloom later this week. But it’s the Queens Wreath, with a few tentative purple blossoms, that is creating the most bloom anticipation for guests and staff! It’s certainly a great time to dine in the garden as the days are filled with cool breezes and the night’s temperatures drop low enough to keep the bugs away.

The garden is the perfect place to celebrate romance. In fact, we were recently honored with a visit from Barbara and John Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, who just loved sitting in the garden during lunch.

It’s no surprise the garden has become one of our most popular seating requests. With that in mind, I will be creating a Valentine’s Day menu to make the day extra special. You can make a reservation for VD HERE, but if you want to guarantee a table in the garden, you’ll have to call us with the request at (239) 262-5500. 

Details are important and are also what make every dish delicious. In fact, I’m about to give a refresher lesson to the kitchen staff about how to hand-pack our burgers.

Excellence is in the details. I hope you agree.

Give ‘em What They Deserve

It is not only ownership and family who make things personal around here. Our staff feels the same way and are proud of their work place and what we offer and it shows. Many of our staff love to dine here and they tend to be our most severe critics.

Of the record setting days, I’d say that 98+ percent of our guests were very satisfied. That is great, but we’d like to do better. We aim to do our best and recognize that perfection is a goal worth striving for.

So what can we do to recapture that last two percent? I think we need to be more watchful of the gaps and encourage guests to freely give us feedback or ask for a problem to be remedied quickly.

Sometimes it’s a simple miscommunication or more likely a non-communication. From a man who is surrounded by family that loves to dine out and has very specific wants and needs-a simple and frank discussion with a server or restaurant owner can be very helpful (and is typically very much appreciated). 

Communicating verbally is the best way to deliver a message – even in this too-fast-paced world we now live in.

Bottom Line: To the 98.5 percent of those who love us, we feel the same way about you. Can’t wait to see you again in the coming weeks and months. In fact, when you do visit make sure you also visit the garden to see the Queens Wreath, orchids and Jasmine come into full bloom. Your enjoyment makes it all worthwhile and so personal.

40 Years to Make One Cake Perfect

Here is the story behind the details of my Carrot Cake.

Carrot Cake has been in my culinary vocabulary for decades. It all started a very long time ago when TSGT Jeter, with whom I worked while stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, offered me his wife’s Carrot Cake recipe. I tried it, loved it, and as they say, the rest is history.

The original recipe from his wife, well-loved and well-stained, is framed and on display at the counter in Tony’s Off Third. 

But as most chefs do, I love to be creative, so the recipe has had a few modifications over the years. We continue to use the freshest ingredients including real carrots and butter, but I have increased the volume of spice a little to get a stronger but equally pleasant taste.

I have no idea how many thousands of Carrot Cakes we have baked at Tony’s or will continue to make. Our Carrot Cake is just that: no nuts, pineapple or raisins. My favorite way to enjoy the cake is as a cupcake, fresh from the oven and still warm with its spice perfume still in the air.

It amazes me how something so simple can be so good. The Carrot Cake slice served at Ridgway is a generous one. It is not some au currant take on carrot cake; it is the real deal. Easy to share with others or splurge for one.

Baking is in my blood and I find great pleasure in exploring new variations on every recipe. This passion is also shared by the bakery staff at Tony’s and in the kitchens at Ridgway and Bayside. Yet above everything, taste trumps creativity and we’ve found that a choice piece of fish or meat needs little more than perfect grilling to win over the critics.

Sometimes the best things in life are the things we hold dear from the past – like our loyal dining guests and a simple slice of freshly baked Carrot Cake.

Your Friend,
Tony

 

Holiday Musings & a Burger to Boot

You can feel the holiday spirit at Ridgway. Wynne and her elves decked our halls, reservations for Christmas dinner are pouring in, and there’s a holiday party happening every night.

Thanksgiving week was wonderful. The night of the Festival of Lights had perfect weather. Santa, Mayor John Sorrey and the beautiful Snow Queen paraded down Third Street to the Christmas tree in front of Tony’s Off Third, officially kicking off the festivities; many thanks to Wink TV for their continued support of Third Street.

We set a record for Thanksgiving with 720 dining guests. It was fun for all of us. The entire staff did a wonderful job, but a big shout out to Gary Sharp and his prep crew for all they did.

The beep. beep, beeeeeeeeeeep of the construction lifts around our building has gone silent. The renovation work looks terrific and the construction crew did a great job, causing fewer problems than any one would have imagined; a good job done by all. Thanks to all of our customers who came in during the construction process.

We have lots of events and special happenings coming up in the next few week.

Sukie’s very special Champagne and Sparkling Tasting is tonight. We have over 100 guests registered to attend. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by, we can make a little more room. 

Gia, our general manager, is preparing a Captain Morgan party on Thursday, December 13th at The Courtyard Bar. The “Coast-to-Coast Shipwreck Party” kicks off at 5:30 pm and will go until The Courtyard Bar closes that night. There will be lively Caribbean music and giveaways! All the details can be found HERE.

Tara, our specialty pastry chef at Tony’s Off Third, has Gingerbread Houses in full production. Priced at $45.00 and $60.00, you can also talk with Tara to get one customized. We have cute hand-made sugar Santa and Reindeer pieces that can added to your Gingerbread House scene as well. Heck, we can even create an entire Gingerbread Village if you wish. But don’t wait too long as we have a limited number we can construct, so call quickly. Tara is happy to consult with you on any special requests. There is a picture book that displays many of her creations available for perusal at the counter in Tony’s Off Third.

The bakery team is also busy making – from scratch – all your favorite holiday pastries, which will be on sale in the pastry case or by special order starting Friday, December 7th. Here is the holiday pastry items we are making: 

Buche de Noel $45, feeds 12-15
Wreath Cake, $30, feeds 6-8 
Pumpkin Tart, 11.95
Reindeer Snowball, $3.95
Kahlua Pecan Tart, $18.95
Truffles Carrot Cake, $36
Flourless Chocolate Cake, $36 
Red Velvet Cake, $36
Key Lime Tart, $14.95
Large Decorated Sugar Cookie $2.95
Decorated Gingerbread Men, $4.50
Assorted Decorated Holiday cookies, $9.95/dozen
Christmas Tree Cupcakes, $3.50
Cakes are 8″ and serve 8-10 people. Tarts serve 6-8 people.

PLACE A CUSTOM ORDER BY CALLING 239.262.7999

Employees of Ridgway Bar & Grill, Tony’s off Third and Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar will once again be celebrating the holiday together at Tony & Wynne’s home on Tuesday, December 18th. We have done this for several years and it is a great family occasion. All three restaurants will be closing a little early that day so all our staff can enjoy the party.

Christmas Eve reservations are going quickly. We have so many extended families that join us that evening. Hopefully you and you family will begin a Christmas tradition by dining with us for Christmas Eve or for Christmas Day. We will be open regular hours on Christmas Eve and serve from noon to eight PM on Christmas day. Check out our Christmas Day menu HERE.

Every Dish Tells a Story

When asked about my menu, I generally tell someone why each plate is special to me. For example, let me tell you about my burger. I used to spend a lot of time in Lake Forest, Illinois and shopped at Don’s Finest Foods, a wonderful local grocer with a spectacular meat counter. His ground chuck was the best! I wish the store were still open. When I opened Ridgway Bar & Grill in the fall of 2001, I wanted to have a great burger on the menu and set out to do so. I spoke with James at Grand Western, they were at the time and still are today our only meat purveyor. My objective was to replicate Don’s Finest Grocery ground chuck. 

The basis is USDA prime chuck meat, freshly ground and then hand packed at the restaurant where it gets seared on a flat top griddle. The first mix was 80 percent lean to 20 percent fat. It was good, but not great. My second attempt was a ratio of 70 percent lean to 30 percent steak fat. The burger cooks like a steak and taste as good as any hunk of meat. We pan sear the burger because the open flame on the grill might get a little too active with the fat bursting onto the coals. I also like the more neutral char the heavy grill gives the beef. So that’s my story on why The Ridgway Burger is so good. Thanks to Don for his friendship, guidance and inspiration from years ago. And thanks to Grand Western for knowing that quality and taste are the only way to go. Next month I’ll tell you my Carrot Cake recipe story.

Welcome Neighbors

Our building is now filled with a superb collection of retailers. Stop by and say hello to all of them from all of us. The Beach House opened with us in the fall of 1976, Kathy and Annie have been at Tickled Pink for years, Katie and Ted are celebrating a year on the corner at St. Tropez. And two very new stores; Sarah Campbell dress shop and Spruce Home Goods have opened within the past few weeks.

We are all getting ready for a busy and celebratory season. Please join us soon and we can talk about food and wine.

Your Friend,
Tony

 

 

 

 

 

An Inconvenient Truth

While sitting at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in front of a computer/iPhone charging station a few weeks ago, I began to feel angry at the realization that the airline had few options for getting me back home. Moreover, they were unapologetic about the inconvenience.

I succumbed to my situation and began reading the Naples Daily newspaper online. One particular headline hit me very hard and made me realize that all of my personal angst meant nothing. Things could be worse, and eventually I would get back to Naples and my life, as I know it, would go on. But my feelings toward United Airlines may never change, however.

That simple moment made me evaluate the state of customer service. Being inconvenienced is not fun. It can do great damage to a reputation and those hurts run deep.

A few days later I called a meeting with my management team to discuss plans for the fall. On top of the list was how to improve our customer care processes. Specifically, how we take reservations.

It was agreed that Ridgway would promise to provide a reservation for exactly what the customer wants. We’ve always done our best to accommodate diner requests, but it doesn’t go without saying that this process often has glitches.

Regardless of technicalities, we agreed to do the following:
When you call for a side porch table reservation, you will be reserved for just that. However, if no side porch table is available at the time you specify, then we’ll let you know when one will be available or provide additional options. You will not be promised something we can not deliver when you arrive!

Our priority is simple: The customer should be treated not only with respect, but also catered to so as to avoid inconvenience. 

A Fresh Face for Fall

For those who have been to Third Street and Ridgway in the past few days, you’ve seen some major construction going on. Our building is undergoing some much-needed work. The garden and side patio will be complete by weeks end and the front porch by early next week. By the time you receive this post, all the construction will be complete.

These renovations are providing Wynne, me and some of our staff with some new fall planting work in the garden. It is a very exciting time for all of us. We will be working with a very clean slate this year, so much to accomplish. When done, it will be one of our most popular dining atmospheres for sure!

A few last minute items to the Ridgway dinner menu will be available by October’s end. I am very excited about some of the new offerings. A few that I especially love are: Lamb Trilogy, Spicy Shellfish Stew, Lamb Ribs, Corn Fritters with local honey, and for those that asked, the Mac & Cheese is returning! 

Join us for Thanksgiving

Weekend Brunch

Our brunch is a very popular Sunday tradition so we decided to add another day! Starting this Saturday (November 3rd), Ridgway will offer its special brunch on both Saturdays & Sundays from 10am – 2pm!

In addition, we will create a Coffee Bar in the outdoor Courtyard Bar on Saturday & Sunday mornings for guests that want a quick cup of regular or decaf coffee. Specialty coffees, breakfast items including quiche, scones and pastries made on site are available in Tony’s. Check out the new Breakfast and Lunch menu HERE.

A Time for Wine 

For those of you who love wine do you have any idea what an asset we have and therefore you have in my partner Sukie Honeycutt? Sukie’s wine knowledge is superb. When she talks about the winemakers and the owners, it is because she knows them. Sukie gets excellent allocations because of the long-term business relationships and can help you with those very hard to find wines.

Even more important, Sukie is bringing excellent value wines to Tony’s Off Third. Everyday wines that you will be proud to pour and where will find great value. Sukie is happy to work with you on your special purchases and her staff at Tony’s can help you as well.

Tony’s Off Third wine selections are not the deeply discounted wines you see all over. They are simply the wines you want to drink at good prices!

If you are a Pinot Noir lover, stroll through the store and seek out the more than 80 labels specifically selected for you.

Sukie is also hosting a few special wine tastings in the next few weeks.
An Italian Wine Seminar is scheduled for November 14 (registration open) and the 14th Annual Champagne & Sparkler Tasting will be on December 7th (registration opens Nov. 19).

The fall looks to be great and as I write this, the first morning low is under 70. Life is good and my priorities are in order. Your Friend,
Tony

Seasonal Hibernation is Over

The goodbyes are almost over. I’ve said those words too many times the past weeks. In protest, I think I’ll turn my back on the next car-carrier leaving town; that ritual is inevitable and one of the surest signs of summer’s arrival. A more fun signal is welcoming back many year-round guests who simply stay away during the seasonal crush.

I’ve seen many faces smiling as they reclaim their beloved village of Naples. I miss the crowds, but fully appreciate the sentiment and am thrilled to see our long-term supporters returning in good numbers.

As a restaurant that achieves much of its success from a large base of loyal and long-term customers, I had been talking about names that had formed that very base several decades ago. Wow was I surprised this past Monday evening. Friends who had been frequents guests from years ago were everywhere. It was great fun for them and me too, as we both had the opportunity to socialize with friends whom we had not seen in some time.

Wynne and I were out of town the last week of April. We had dinner with my daughter Caroline in Philadelphia at Talula’s Garden on Washington Square. The food was terrific, with lots of local fresh vegetables beautifully and flavorfully prepared. We dined there twice within a week and pretty much ate our way through the menu. It was a truly wonderful experience and reminded me of why I love what I do. 

I love listening to our guests discuss their dining experiences. They love our menu and wine programs knowing that our quality of food, level of service and ambiance and level of consistency have a very high standard. Someone once said, “I love your restaurant because your performance in the restaurant generally exceeds my expectations.” I aspire to doing that for you every day. 

I am going to work on new menu items this summer rather than wait until the fall. It works better logistically for me and will keep my mind and hands active, energize the kitchen staff and more important, give our local supporters a first look at the new items; with mid June being the goal for the first new tastes.

We purchase a lot of beautiful greens from a local farmer who delivers several times a week. His growing season ended a few weeks ago and he thanked us for our business by not charging us for our last order! Can’t with until next fall to see him.

With the heat of summer coming soon, we are launching new summer discounts at both Ridgway Bar & Grill & Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar.

SUMMERS AT RIDGWAY
May 28-Sept 30

***20% OFF on all food and beverages at Ridgway & the Courtyard Bar. Good for lunch and dinner. Excludes bottles of wine. Limit parties of 10. 18% gratuity added.

***Sunday Family Night. Kids 8 years and younger eat free from the Kid’s menu with each paid adult. We’d love to have your family join our family for dinner. 

***20% OFF local business events. Host a summer party in our garden or wine cellar with colleagues in July & August. Call for details.

SUMMERS AT BAYSIDE
June 4-Sept 30

***20% OFF on all food and beverages in the Downstairs Dining Room at Bayside from 4pm-close. Excludes bottles of wine. Limit parties of 10. 18% gratuity added.

***Parties on the Patio. Join us from 5:30-8:30pm on Sunday June 10th, July 1st, August 5th and Sept 2nd for our Summer Grillin’ Parties on the Patio. These all inclusive outdoor picnic-inspired parties include fresh steaks and seafood prepared on an open grill by Chef Abel! Salad, vegetable, Royal Scoop ice cream, and one glass of wine or a domestic beer per person. Live entertainment by 2(4)U with Mary Grace & Tim Poindexter. Register online for $35 or $45 at the door.
Register online and save!

***Bayside’s also discounting (up to 50% OFF) a special cocktail each week during the summer! See the weekly drink specials for June.

18th ANNUAL SUMMER SIPPIN’ TASTING
Tony’s Off Third
July 20 at 5:30pm

Experience 20 wines for $20!
Guests receive a $10 coupon toward a featured wine purchase.
Details or register HERE

Sukie has updated her Master Wine list. For those unaware, Sukie has a secondary list that is worth a long look. The basic covers all basics; the Master List hits all of the details. For wine lovers, it is worth a good study.

Since I wrote the original draft of this blog, the stream of long-term guests coming by has continued. I wonder who I’ll see tonight who may be a friend from days gone by. Hopefully it will be you.

I’ll see you soon and we can talk about food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake Mine with Lots of Style & Taste

Baking has always been a part of my life. Apple and peach orchards were my childhood playground. Picking strawberries or walking across hills in search of wild blackberries were my summer camp activities. And while other children were busy collecting bruises from tackle football or bicycle mishaps, I was busy tackling thorny branches to gather fresh blackberries, an activity that also stained my fingers purple – a testament to a successful harvest!

Family parties were my sock hops as they provided me a chance to dance in delight over the fabulous cakes and pies made fresh by my aunts. Aunt Mabel made the best German chocolate cake. And our neighbor, Mrs. Taylor, made a wonderful cake with a lemon filling and boiled icing.

When I was 8-years old, I baked my first apple pie. I soon advanced to lemon meringue pies and chocolate cakes and cookies and then éclairs. I vividly remember the first time I made the chocolate orange mousse at The Chef’s Garden on Fifth Avenue. It was the fall of 1972. The technique, which today is a basic for me, seemed so advanced and took forever.

Great baking is more than an ability to read a recipe. Take the carrot cake recipe given to me by a co-worker in the USAF. I have prepared it for over 40 years. Yet over time, I changed the level of spice in the recipe adding some All Spice and Ginger. It took baking thousands of these cakes to get this recipe perfect. FYI: The original recipe is framed and hangs in Tony’s Off Third.

With the advent of Truffles, a new door in baking opened for me. The bakery cases were filled with wonderful sweet delights. Young and old stood in front of the display case each day to pick out that one special treat. Those moments are my Norman Rockwell images.

I will confess: I LOVE desserts! And even though I’ve reduced my personal consumption (Wynne likes a fit man), the sweet end of the meal is still my favorite part.

To those of you who remember the baked goods from Truffles, please listen up. Tony’s Off Third is a significantly better bakery than Truffles ever was. Every one of the items reflect a lifetime of stained fingers and thorny obstacles to get what I think is a perfect mix of style and taste. 

The secret ingredient: It’s not the location as some might think. Our secret ingredient is a fabulous team of bakers and finishers. Maryann is in charge of the bakery and boy does she love to bake. Always ready with a smile and helping hands are Curtis, Martin, Juan, Lynn and Santos. To our advantage, Elenides has become a great finisher of cakes. And Tara, our new specialty artist, has a refreshing flair for creativity. 

A bakery is a place where flour, sugar, eggs, cream, chocolate, and the whole glossary of baking products come together. And YES, we do use lots of fresh cream and butter. What we don’t use is shortening. Baking is both an art and a science. Techniques are critical; measurements are precise. But one must have the ultimate touch to know when the process is perfect so the result will be tempting. We have that with our team at Tony’s Off Third! 

Case in point: We recently uncovered the apple peeling machine from years gone by. It is a fabulous instrument of black iron machinery with manually calibrated gears and blades. With baking, there are no shortcuts. In our bakery, there are no preset buttons or computerized assembly lines either. I’ve tested so many new kitchen innovations over the years that promise results, but none compare to what we can accomplish with a team of skilled human hands. 

But the joys of a bakery are not fully realized unless we can share our creations with others. For this reason, we continue to survey our best customers and have responded to many requests. The Zebra cake is back and we have a huge new Red Velvet cake fan club.

Our list of freshly baked items continues to grow each day. To keep the pace, our bakers begin the day at 11pm the night before. 

I want to remind you that we also enjoy baking your custom creations including wedding cakes, holiday treats and large party orders. Take a look at our pastry menu.

On a final note, I want to answer one question that I hear often and surprises me: 
Question: Where are these pastries made?My answer: Everything you see or purchase from our bakery and all items* on the dessert menus at Ridgway Bar and Grill and Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar are prepared and baked right here in two rooms behind the retail store in Old Naples. *Ice cream at Bayside is from Royal Scoop (Bonita Springs) and gelato at Ridgway is from Freddo Gelateria (downtown Naples). 

Your Friend,
Tony

 

 

 

Making History… One Generation and Dinner at a Time

The first days of 2012 are continuing to support the optimism generated by a record setting holiday period for Ridgway Bar & Grill. Not only was the level of business terrific, but the performance by the entire staff was remarkable. Thanks to all and I mean everyone. The first rule a restaurant operator must learn is to believe in others and ask them to perform. That maxim has never more evident than in the beginning weeks of 2012.

Borrowed from the Past

While my eyes are constantly fixed on how to stay creative in the kitchen and keep palates from all generations happy, I must admit that regardless of how many new items or atmospheres I debut, it always comes back to one thing: That we’ve been able to create a consistently joyful dining experience for over 40 years.

How? I believe it’s because we remain focused on not just the quality of our ingredients and attention to preparation, (and our wine selections) but also on making sure the ambience enhances the occasion. Sukie and I were just talking about how important the little details are: like making sure our tables enjoy a little elbow room, ample mood lighting and music, accommodating for breezes, glare and temperature, and of course that every seat enjoys a good view. While other eateries may fail to pay attention to the details, we believe they are the hallmarks of staying competitive. In fact, I believe our ability to provide a dining experience that stands above the rest in ambience and cuisine is the biggest reason we enjoy such a great repeat customer base. (more about how I’m serving the needs of younger generations below)

A History of Charity

January will be busy for Sukie and I as we are the Honorary Chairs for this year’s YMCA of the Palms Sneaker Ball. The event is the largest annual fundraiser for the Naples YMCA. The YMCA staff and Sneaker Ball committee are working hard to make this year’s event memorable with amazing and rare auction items and stellar entertainment. In addition to encouraging support and attendance, Sukie and I are also catering the Ball.

An interesting fact about the YMCA and Sukie and myself is that we’ve all been a part of the community for a long time. Over the years the Y has been guided by many of Naples preeminent leaders. Sukie has been directly involved in several leadership roles at the Y for over 22 years, and both of us have supported them through a variety of in-kind donations.

Strong leadership drives the Y’s success. Its programs strengthen families through its leadership. In addition, it supports thousands children through childcare, sports and after school programs. And while the tepid economy has affected charitable giving goals, the Y continues to enjoy commitment from leaders that are steadfast to see it remain a valuable asset in our community.

Our message to those who have been leaders or anyone who has enjoyed the Y’s services or programs is to please STEP UP. Sukie and I are happy to contribute and happy to work with Brandon Dowdy and his staff at the YMCA to hopefully regenerate tons of local support and moreover to renew that feeling of being involved in a local project at its grass roots.

With that in mind, we felt a strong connection with the Y during our recent 40th Anniversary celebration this past November, and will present a check to the agency at the Ball from dinner proceeds we collected from you over those four days. Proceeds from the Sneaker Ball support the YMCA scholarship fund. The party is on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at the YMCA of the Palms gymnasium. We’d love to see you there. Purchase tickets HERE.

Moving Generations

On the restaurant front, we have so many good things going on right now. Each night we see our most valued long-term customers and get a chance each day to meet our new guests, some of whom will become our best new customers. I look at the history reports each day and love seeing the repeat visitors. I also look at the new guests trying to discern who will be that next best customer.

Our friend Jonathan Foerster, an editor at Gulfshore Life Magazine blogged last month about young diners of Naples often being spurned by Naples fine dining restaurants. I hope we are not on that list and for all the young of Naples – we’d love to have you learn the nuances of fine dining at Ridgway Bar & Grill and Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar.

I tend to notice when groups in their late twenties or early thirties dine with us. Those that young do skew our average age, but great food is a fabulous way of life. I remember introducing well-prepared food to a group of first year college students a few years ago. The room was quiet and the attention span was tenuous at best until they tasted the first item. After that it was “Let’s eat all we can get,” and then they wanted to talk about nothing else but how to prepare good food.

Of interest to our younger clients will be the new Courtyard Bar. If you’ve visited us lately, you’ll see that the courtyard area in front of Tony’s Off Third has undergone a minor transformation. We’ve installed a state-of-the-art surround sound system that allows us to select different genre of music based on the time of day and clientele preference. We also officially built a real full bar and are now offering a very casual menu starting at 5pm, and just in the courtyard. The menu can be found .

In early January, we hosted the Ferrari Club of Naples’ first event of the year. Over a dozen pristine and beautiful Ferrari’s and their owners took over the street parking on 13th Avenue and enjoyed fresh pastries, Mimosas & Bloody Mary’s at the Courtyard Bar. We were also busy that morning replenishing coffee & baked goods at our booth in the Farmer’s Market on 3rd Street. Check out pictures from the event on our Facebook page.

Truffles Inspired

It’s true! There is a rumor that the Truffles Tuna Caesar is on the new Courtyard Bar at Ridgway menu. We invite you to come check it out. Another thing about the Truffles Tuna Caesar salad: the dressing is better that ever. I worked with Gary to take the flavor profile up a little. The Tuna Caesar is available ONLY IN THE COURTYARD. We’re dangling that carrot under your nose to get some of you out there.

The bar is totally outside and subject to vagaries of the weather. It’s open 6 nights a week (closed Mondays). Sukie and I look forward to having you join us there some evening. No reservations, no pretense and just a simple light-fare menu. Sandy feet welcome and shorts and flip flops appear to be the style of the day.

Another new development worthy of note are the brioche donuts. Have you tried my brioche donuts yet? Perfect and light enough for a late night snack. They are the best and available at Ridgway in the evening and in the Courtyard.

Come by and say hi to our courtyard bar staff and sit under the stars and talk with you friends. Hope to see you soon and to talk about food and fun.

-Tony

 

What I Learned After 40 years

Some celebrations are better than others.

On November 2nd – 5th, 2011, the community came together to join us in celebrating our 40th Anniversary in business. Over this busy four-day period, I observed something in action that I have been observing for years – but until now, I’ve kept it to myself.

Over the years we’ve seen the passage of time take some of our best clients and are always searching for our next best clients. The perks for our best customers are myriad. There are no initiation fees, no dues, no minimums, just great food and wine with friends and the feeling that you are special.

VIDEO: Tony & Sukie share their secrets to success with Jeff Lytle on NewsMakers.

First of all, I must give kudos to where they are deserved. The celebration exceeded all of my expectations. The live music at our finale street party was terrific, thanks to Patrick and Paul for a wonderful performance. Justin from Neapolitan made certain that we had plenty of power for the band. Gia had her bar and restaurant staff fully primed and ready to go. They all performed perfectly. The kitchen staff was in full season rhythm. I love it that way. Maryanne and her crew did not miss a beat in the bakery and Tara had a beautiful cake for all to see. Wynne’s garden is more spectacular than ever. Sukie has both Ridgway and Bayside in perfect physical shape. Thanks to all.

We began with a private reception at Ridgway Bar & Grill, on Wednesday. We then proceeded to a sold out wine tasting at Bayside Seafood Grill and Bar, on Thursday and to a scone and cake tasting at Tony’s Off Third, on Friday and the finale, The Street Dance, on Saturday. Mollie, our PR specialist, who was so good, what more can I say, all four days went off without a glitch. While we had plenty of public treats planned, it was our private events that warmed my heart most.

Did our customers get preferential treatment? YES, deservedly so!

Our best customers have many traits in common. Some go back almost forty years and by shear longevity are favorites. Some dine with us 50-100 times per year. Some buy wine from Sukie in vast quantities. Some simply love great food and wine and choose to dine with us. They all have one common thread: They love being at both Ridgway and Bayside. They love the idea that Tony’s off Third has wines that are hand selected. They love the fact that the restaurants are owned and operated by hands on and passionate people. John Everding, Jennifer Landon, Andrea Eastman and Chef Abel Gonzalez personify what Sukie and I believe in, as they watch over Bayside every minute of the day.

For those who are not at the top of our lists, there is always hope. The common theme of the week was one of celebration and more important of being able to see and celebrate with old friends. One of the realities of being in business for so long is that we have great clients who go back almost to day one.

Many guests said it was so much fun to see old friends. Old and new friends are truly what a great restaurant is about. I was once again reminded that a restaurant is not just a place, a physical structure as it is a gathering of individuals. Some nights are so special because there is that sense of personality that pervades.

We can provide a perfectly fine establishment, and both Bayside and Ridgway offer that. We can offer a well thought out and well-executed menu, and Bayside and Ridgway do that as well. The magic comes from the guests. The multiple personalities that make up each night, the generations that cross our paths each day, the various backgrounds and beliefs that we bring create the aura, the sense of personality and excitement.

Many of our clients bring fascinating and sometime exhilarating backgrounds. Some are reticent to talk, some gush forward.

I sometimes think that for a few minutes of each lunch and dinner, these disparate people come together in a dining and social environment and share the common bond and forge into an agreeable synergy that can transcend polarizing issues.

The fond memories you shared with us at the 40th Anniversary was the inspiration that led Sukie & I to open the NEW Courtyard Bar. For those of you that miss the casual atmosphere and great food at Truffles — you are going to love the Courtyard Bar. Walk up / sit down / enjoy a Truffles Tuna Caesar. No reservations necessary and along with a light-fare menu, you can enjoy pastries perfect for those nighttime sweet tooth attacks. We’re telling people “Sandy Feet Welcome,” which means it’s as casual as you want to be when you arrive by foot, bike, car, golf cart or off the beach. The Courtyard Bar is open past midnight on New Years Eve. Can you imagine a more beautiful place to celebrate the night?

Many thanks to all who attended and celebrated with us, thank you to our staff who created the Orchid Garden in the Garden at Ridgway Bar & Grill. And thank you to those of you out there who are saying I’d like to be the next best customer. We’re welcoming applicants with open arms. It can begin simply with a single drink at the new Courtyard Bar at Ridgway or talking with Scotty at the Upper Deck Bar at Bayside.

Hope to see you all soon as we begin to build more memories in anticipation of our 50th anniversary in 2021!

Happy Holidays – Tony