By Abby Weingarten, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Restaurateur and chef Brad Rudy recently launched New York Slice Company (501 N. Beneva Road, Sarasota. 366-8125; facebook.com/nysliceco) in Sarasota with a simple intent: to merge Manhattan-style pizza with locally-sourced Southwest Florida ingredients. His new venture is becoming known for its fresh pies and calzones packed with savory and sugary flavors.
Q: Did you grow up with a love of food?
A: Yes. My mom started us at a very young age in the kitchen. She thought it was important for us to learn how to cook and cook well. I made my first breakfast for the family when I was four (pancakes) and I decided to add blueberries when I mixed the batter. Mind you, this was batter from scratch, just like my mother had taught us how to make, and the only thing was it was blue and a little thin. My eldest sister, Ruth, came into the kitchen and asked if I had drained the juice from the can. The pancakes came out blue, but they were tasty and the family was pleasantly surprised.
Q: What made you so passionate about cooking as a career?
A: I used to work at a restaurant in Sarasota called Quintiliano’s with a man named Quinn, who taught me so many things about cooking. He would have me stay late and make sauce with him, and he sometimes would have me help him make his famous Spumoni with all the rum intact (except for what might fall into a glass that he would pour). He would say, “One for the Spumoni, one for you, and one for me.” He taught me that cooking had to be fun and enjoyable or it would never taste right. Quinn could make an attractive plate but he did not believe in the pomp and circumstance that sometimes follows the accredited chef’s world. He would say that at the end of the day, “It doesn’t matter how good a plate looks; if it’s not exciting to the palate, it’s worthless.” One of the greatest things he taught me was to smell and taste something and picture what was missing, and then to imagine what flavor would fill that space and use the first thing that popped into my head.
Q: What are three of your most popular food items and what makes them unique?
A: We have authentic New York-style, hand-tossed crust. People from the Northeast will be taken back to the experiences of their roots in texture and flavor. We offer a Philly cheese steak Stromboli that, unlike the normal grilled and greasy offering most people associate with a Philly, ours is juicy and tender (it tastes more like a prime rib and it has a fresh and light feel in your stomach, and it is served with peppery, tangy au jus). Our stuffed mushrooms are stuffed with our ricotta and cheese blend and topped with a very lean sausage. We then cover them with a mozzarella provolone cheese blend.
Q: What makes New York Slice Company stand out from all of the other local pizzerias?
A: Our dining room is more of a lounge, or as one customer described it, a “living room atmosphere,” where you can relax, eat and enjoy a conversation or play a board game. You should never feel rushed at our place. We try to locally source our food whenever possible and are very strong proponents of supporting local growers and businesses. We have harvest specials that highlight local growers, and we offer some absolutely unique flavors and combinations of ingredients. One of our mottos is, “A dollar spent locally can change hands 10 times, greatly strengthening our local economy.”
Q: In your downtime, how do you unwind?
A: I love spending time with family—particularly my wife, who is my best friend. I love experiencing new foods, restaurants and cultures, both locally and abroad. A day hiking around some ancient ruins, followed by eating at the guide’s favorite haunt, is what I call a perfect day. My wife and I always look for that little hole in the wall or that great find around the corner, where we have experienced so many different ways of doing things and different blends of flavors. I have tried to bring as much of that as I can to New York Slice Company.
BRIE HONEY CRISP DESSERT MINI CALZONE
1 piecrust or ready-mix pizza crust
1 small wheel of Brie cheese
1 bag honey crisp apples (from the Central Sarasota Farmers’ Market or Brown’s Grove)
1 bag Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese blend
1-2 tablespoons butter
Dash of ground cinnamon
Drizzle of honey
Lay out the crust in an 8-inch circle (remember to leave a ¾-inch space to the edge so you can cut, flute and trim later). Layer half of the crust with a thin coating of melted butter. Add a layer of the Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese blend. Lay out the peeled honey crisp apples (cut into thin wedges) and the Brie in 1-inch pieces. Top with a healthy drizzle of honey and ground cinnamon. Fold the crust and flute with your fingers or a roller, and cut half of an inch off. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees until golden brown and bubbling. Glaze with sweetened butter and serve hot.