One local chef is giving Utica a run for its money.
Word is out that Tony Imbesi's specialty greens are the best in town, becoming the talk at tables where hungry patrons crave the savory saut (c): the Market Diner in Syracuse. Imbesi, who was the executive chef at Amore (now Papa Gallo) in Fayetteville, puts his own spin on the regional dish.
"It's certainly not the first time people have had greens, because of me," he said, acknowledging the dish's popularity. But people have been quite receptive to his twist on the traditional recipe. "I feel good about it. For me, one of the most gratifying parts of doing what I do is seeing how [my] patrons react."
Imbesi, who began his career as a culinary chef in the early 2000s, earned dual certification from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and the American Culinary Federation. His resume includes working at high class restaurants in Florida, Massachusetts and here in Syracuse; Lemongrass and Frankie's Bistro among them. In September 2009, Imbesi purchased the Market Diner with his wife Elaine, whose family has run it for more than 30 years.
So what exactly makes his palate-pleasing plate unique?
Without giving away his recipe, Imbesi indicated some of the key ingredients that make his greens different.
"I use a blend of sausage products, which have quite a different amount of seasoning versus its counterpart, prosciutto," he said, noting the Italian-cured ham is typically what's used in Utica greens.
He also uses Parmigiano-Reggiano, which he calls the "undisputed king of all cheeses," and Pecorino Romano -- imported only.
"Domestic Romano is made with cow's milk," he said. "Imported Romano is made with sheep's milk, which tastes considerably different -- much more salt, much more pungent and in the end, it lends itself to making the dish more hearty and tasty."