When Ralph Pagano left STK Miami to head food and beverage operations at Gulfstream Park, it seemed like a match made in heaven. At the time, Pagano told our sister blog, Clean Plate Charlie, that he only moved to south Florida for the racetrack.
But a gambling man can never turn down a good bet. And, according to Pagano, his new gig at Sole on the Ocean in Sunny Isles looks like a sure thing. Pagano will serve as both executive chef of the resort's restaurant, Alba, and as director of food and beverage for the entire property. Ron Kerr, owner of Bite Gastrotruck and chef at Georgie's Alibi in Wilton Manors, has been tapped as special events director (Kerr will remain at Georgie's Alibi, for those of you who are addicted to their award-winning burgers). Alba is currently going through a renovation and is expected to open fall of 2012 (in time for stone crab season, according to Pagano).
Pagano spoke to Short Order about his plans for the resort, his upcoming hosting gig on Lifetime television (that's right, Lifetime ... for women!), and why he left the ponies to fend for themselves at Gulfstream.
"I've heard it so many times. Why aren't there more restaurants on the
water in Miami Beach?" Pagano asked as he spread out his arms,
displaying the oceanfront space which will soon be Alba, his 120-seat
Italian seafood concept. "I'm going to have fresh local seafood coming
in to the restaurant ... even if I have to take a boat out to meet it."
Pagano said he was inspired to serve fresh seafood from his trips to the
Mediterranean: "They don't overwork the fish. A little olive oil, a
little lemon. Done. That's what I want to bring to Alba."
and let's not forget the gnudi bar at Alba. "I've always wanted to open a
gnudi bar," Pagano quips. "Somehow I don't think the name would fly
here, but we'll have a gnudi bar. You can dress your gnudi any way you
like to order -- lobster, roasted corn, truffles ..."
to Alba, Pagano has some mighty fine plans for the property, including
the outdoor Mare Beach Club, complete with rum bar -- "We'll serve 40
different mojitos" -- and a rolling bar cart that will serve custom
cocktails to your room. "Around happy hour, a bartender will go door to
door. He'll make you a cocktail, then go on his way."
especially ones staying a few weeks, who want to stay in and cook (120
of the resort's rooms are equipped with full kitchens), Pagano is
offering do-it-yourself meals complete with all the needed ingredients,
pots, and a recipe card.
In addition to working non-stop on Alba
and the resort, Pagano is also hosting a cooking competition on
Lifetime, which features local culinary students from Fort Lauderdale's
Art Institute competing at different locations throughout south Florida.
"I act as the host and mentor, so I reward them when they succeed, and
punish them when they fail. I get to play Ted Allen and Gordon Ramsay at
the same time."
And as for leaving the horses behind at
Gulfstream Park? Pagano said he never would have left if not for this
opportunity. "I loved everything about Gulfstream Park," he says. "In fact, I'll be
there opening day."
Sipping a mojito, Pagano once again looks out the windows, clearly
smitten with the view. "Look, I call this the big gamble, but I'm all
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in," Pagano says. "I mean look at this place. Look at what I have to
work with. There are so many opportunities where I can do so many things.
I'm creating a food playground."