JULIE BRANAMAN | TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013
At age 10, while other kids were riding bikes and playing tag, Tony Macaroni was in the kitchen of his family's Brooklyn home learning the art of making hand-crafted mozzarella.
His father, his instructor, was teaching the finer points of cooking -- a tradition common among Italian men and their sons.
Fast forward 30 years to today and you'll find Executive Chef Macaroni (yes, that is his family name) working and pulling curd into soft shapes of fresh mozzarella at Primi Ristorante Italiano in downtown St Petersburg.
Macaroni and sous chef Kenneth Kopcsik work daily to make every menu item from scratch and use all local fish and produce, in addition to chicken, beef, veal and lamb.
Moving from the Garden State six years ago, Macaroni says he stays in Tampa Bay to take advantage of Clearwater's white sand beaches, Ybor City's lively night-life and Downtown St Pete's fabulous art scene.
83 Degrees Managing Photographer Julie Branaman stepped into Macaroni's kitchen for a step-by-step look at the art of mozzarella making. Watch the photo slideshow as Chef Tony explains how to make the delicate cheese by hand.
Primi Ristorante Italiano
From Our Editors Groupon
With its plates of homemade pasta, sautéed marinated chicken, and seafood dishes lit by streaks of neon and sided with martinis, Primi - under new ownership - evokes the image of both a homey Italian restaurant and a swanky nightclub. That's because executive chef Tony Macaroni spent years not only mastering the cuisine of his native Italy, but also working in the kitchens of high-class hotels cooking for celebrities such as Evander Holyfield, Scott L. Schwartz, and Bob Newhart. Together with sous-chef and baking specialist Kenneth Kopcsik, Chef Macaroni whips up elegantly plated dishes such as a thin-sliced tenderloin carpaccio, wild-mushroom ravioli in sage butter reduction, and a slowly braised lamb shank served with broccoli and homemade croquette. An extravagant selection of wines from the Americas and Europe complement the flavors of mussels in garlic butter while four-course chef's table events allow guests to experience the luxury of having their own personal chef.