From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.
Today: a guy who won't stand for bad Mexican food.
Tastemaker 76: Anthony Patafio
Born in New York, Chef Anthony Patafio has worked all over the United States and the Caribbean, including such renowned kitchens as the Plaza in New York City, Four Seasons Hotels and other resorts in Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Nevis, West Indies, and Scottsdale. He currently works with the Eat Well Drink a Lot restaurant group, which is involved with The Lodge, Mabel's on Main and Praying Monk.
I arrived in Phoenix with... two dollars and a banjo. No, just kidding. I flew in from Philadelphia on Halloween night in 1999 to open the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale. I had no idea what to expect from Phoenix and the food trends here. Having worked in large cities (Philadelphia, New York, Chicago), I thought that no matter what food I created out here, it would be a hit. Well, I was wrong. The cuisine that worked back east seemed to be almost foreign to the diners out here. It was a learning process on both sides of the plate. I needed to learn what was acceptable to Phoenicians and at the same time gently introduce them to new and exciting flavors.
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... Oh, gosh, this is a hard one. So many people I would love to dine with, both those I've never met and old friends as well. Let's see,
Anthony Bourdain, his knowledge of food and dry sense of humor is great. He would be a must at any dream dinner. Both of us being New York boys and around the same age, we would have so many stories in common. Beau MacMillan, he is a great friend and his knowledge of food does not need to be stated, but he also has such a great personality and also a huge presence and terrific sense of humor. Aaron May, aside from being one of my best friends and the best man in my wedding, his acid humor and quick wit is second to none. He not only possesses great food knowledge but can also converse on any, and I mean any, subject that may come up at a dream dinner. Every time I go out with him my stomach muscles hurt for days afterwards. He is probably the funniest person I know. Vince Vaughn, I am not really sure of his food knowledge, but he would be another guest that would add to the fun and light-hearted atmosphere of the evening. Besides, I'll need some help keeping up with my first three guests. Melissa Patafio, because every dream dinner needs a queen in attendance. Not only is my wife strikingly beautiful, but she also possesses a great sense of humor. She is the only woman I know that would not be intimidated to be on this guest list and also be able to hold her own amongst them. She truly is my best friend and we always have great adventures together making for lasting memories.
One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... a must restaurant to dine at is Talavera at the Four Seasons Resort. With Executive Chef Mel Mecinas at the helm, the food is second to none. This is a great dining experience top to bottom. The servers are awesome and so talented and knowledgeable and the view of the valley is to die for. Do your visitors a favor when they come to town and take them up to Talavera. It's a bit of a hike but worth it.
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One menu item this city could do without is... bad Mexican food. I mean it's the Southwest; it's not that hard. I can't tell you how disappointing it is to dine out and expect good Mexican food and not get it. A lot of restaurants serve a light American version of this great ethnic food. Please just do it right and do it well. Don't serve a watered down version because you think it will be too much for Americans to handle.
My last meal in Phoenix would be... easy, the Homemade Ravioli alla Nina and Osso Bucco at Tutti Santi. The ravioli is so tender it melts in your mouth. It's filled with ricotta cheese and spinach and sautéed in a bit of cream topped with fresh tomato sauce. The Osso Bucco is one of those cult menu items. It's not made all the time so you have to ask someone when they will be serving it again. Be sure to have them reserve one for you when you make your reservation as when they sell out, that's it. The meat is so tender it falls off the bone and it's served on a bed of Risotto. Also, make sure to ask for extra bread as you will not want to let any of the sauce get away.
The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco 98: Lara Mulchay 97: M.J. Coe 96: Betty Alatorre de Hong 95: Eric Schaefer 94: Hanna Gabrielsson 93: Shinji Kurita 92: Silvana Salcido Esparza 91: Mike Pitt 90: Christina Barrueta 89: Christopher Gross 88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung 87: DJ Fernandes 86: Cullen Campbell 85: Chris Lee 84. Gwen Ashley Walters 83: Tony Morales 82: Lylah Ledner 81: Andrea White 80: Lori Hashimoto 79. Mrs. White 78: Eugenia Theodosopolous 77: Lou & Lovey Borenstein