Take a lifelong love of cooking that developed growing up in an Italian family and mix it with classical culinary training – and you’ve got a recipe for something special.
That’s the concoction behind the new Tuscan Table Ristorante in Greenfield started by Chef Tony Lepore and his wife, Tracey.
“Everything is handmade with passion and love,” Tony said. “I love what I do, and it’s something that I think will show in the end product.”
“It’s really handmade for them,” he continued, referring to his customers. “It’s almost like coming to my house and eating at my house, because I treat you the same way.”
The restaurant is located at 275 Center St. in Greenfield, which formerly housed and is still owned by Photon Automation, a Greenfield-based advanced manufacturer for which Tony also works as a mechanical engineering technician.
Tuscan Table Ristorante is open on Sundays by reservation. The menu on a recent Sunday evening was made up of chicken marsala and lasagna. Both were exquisite. Starters included breadsticks with flavorful marinara sauce, garden salads filled with fresh vegetables, and caprese salad made up of olive oil coating perfectly ripened tomato slices topped with pillowy slabs of mozzarella and basil leaves.
The chicken marsala was sweet and featured superbly cooked chicken with handmade pasta and delectable mushroom slices. The lasagna came in a personal baking dish packed with rich meat, cheese and sauce divided by layers of pasta cooked to perfection.
Tuscan Table Ristorante gets its meats locally from Maxwell Meats in Maxwell just north of Greenfield. Products there are high quality, Tony said, as animals are processed onsite.
“Chicken marsala has three ingredients to it, maybe four ingredients to it,” he noted. “You have to use higher quality ingredients if you have very little ingredients in a dish to begin with, so local sourcing is very important to us as far as the quality. I want to start with the best of the stuff because the way that we do our food is the highest care.”
The cheesecake for dessert was phenomenal. Mellow Italian music played throughout the evening in the dining area, adding to its warm atmosphere and Tuscan culinary decor.
Tony has fond memories growing up in an Italian-American family and his grandmother making fresh pasta on Sundays for big meals.
“When you make Italian food – and even when you look at the different regions in Italy – the best Italian food is food of the grandmothers,” he said.
Opening his restaurant was 20 years coming, ever since enrolling at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale at age 32 to become a chef. That was shortly after he closed his business working on electric motors and pumps and other electromechanical work due to the mounting stress that was negatively affecting his health.
“I had to take some time off to repair myself mentally and physically from the damage the business was putting on me,” Tony said. “Something that I felt was helping me was I’d get in the kitchen and start cooking. And that was beginning to heal me – cooking in the kitchen.”
His romantic partner at the time and office manager for his business pointed out his culinary talent and encouraged him to pursue an education in it. They planned to open a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, but she passed away before they could.
“I had this whole new direction, and the person I was doing it with was gone,” he said. “…That’s why I say opening the restaurant’s been 20 years coming, because the original reason for me to go to college was to learn the right way so I could open a business.”
When selecting ingredients for his dishes, balance is at the front of Tony’s mind.
“For example, each color of pepper hits a different spot on your tongue,” he said. “So I’ll use white, black and red pepper in a recipe that I’m making – and I’m not using the red pepper to make it hot, I’m using the red pepper to hit a different spot on the tongue. There’s a lot of things that I learned in college and continue to educate myself even after college – how ingredients will complement each other, and balance the whole dish across the board.”
Photon Automation learned of Tony’s cooking chops not long after he started working for the company a few years ago. Soon he was preparing meals for employees in the commercial kitchen at the advanced manufacturer’s former building on Center Street. The business moved to a bigger facility at 501 W. New Road in recent years, but held onto the previous property and was happy to provide space for Tuscan Table Ristorante.
The growth of Greenfield and the surrounding area excites Tony as a new restaurateur.
“The clientele that we want to see come and eat our food are the clientele that appreciate food and enjoy good food, and I see a lot of that clientele in the growth of this town,” he said. “Simply put – I want to cook good food for good people, people that want to come out and have an experience, and enjoy something, and try something that they haven’t had before, and get outside their comfort zone.”
To learn more about the restaurant and make reservations, visit tuscantableristorante.com.