Most people know Ralph Pagano from his restaurants and his rich stories that recall his Italian-American roots. But there's a second side to chef Pagano that he is seeking to explore through food.
Pagano is opening Ferris, a summer pop-up at the Sole on the Ocean hotel that features cuisine from his Lebanese side.
The pop-up, named after his grandfather, Ferris ("no shit. honest," quips the chef), will channel the Greek and Lebanese food the chef "really grew up on as a kid in Brooklyn and Staten Island."
Pagano says that although he loves his Italian side, he always wanted to have a "joint that served that comfort food I really love."
The chef explains that if it came down to that chestnut of a question, "what would your last meal be?" his answer would be surprising. "If I was about to be put to death, or there was some bacchanal finish to my otherwise fun life, my last meal request would be tabouli; baba ghanoush; hummus; grilled lamb chops; lebnae; three Marlboro Reds; a quart of vodka, and whatever "medicinal drugs" were on hand. So, I figured why not have some fun and try something different."
So, starting July 11, Alba Seaside Italian will turn into Ferris, complete with full moon parties, hookah, belly dancers, mezze, and "all that crazy shit."
Menu items include beef and lamb gyros, beef kafta, lamb kebabs, and chicken taouk.
So what happens to Alba during the summer? The chef explains, "I am half Italian and half Lebanese. I did two years with Alba, now I'm doing Ferris; kind of like a Broadway show. Ferris is a pop-up that will be a pseudo-permanent install for the entire summer. Plus, my mom can come help me make grape leaves this summer. She's a school teacher, so she has the summer off. I'll put her to work with all things rice, chick pea, and grape leaves."
Watching Pagano get schooled by his mom (and some killer grape leaves) is incentive enough to check it out, right there!