For restaurants across America, the daily goal is consistency: to create a consistently good meal for guests. It’s an incredibly difficult feat, especially for a new establishment—which is why Executive Chef Anthony Fusco's accomplishments at Del Frisco’s Grille in Palm Beach are impressive.
In just five months, Fusco, a New York native and professional chef of 18 years, has helped turn Del Frisco’s into a posh Palm Beach eatery with a reputation for delivering consistently delicious fare. With a modern take on the classic bar and grill concept, Del Frisco’s specializes in American cuisine, especially steak. Dishes aren't overcomplicated but balanced; the food speaks for itself—akin to Fusco’s cooking style.
“I am all about flavor and contrast to bring a nice balanced dish,” says Fusco, a Johnson & Wales University graduate. “It all needs the proper color, texture, temperature … but contrast, that’s what brings balance.”
The menu proves this philosophy. Even a dish as simple as fried chicken, Del Frisco’s chicken schnitzel, comes alive with finely shaved squash and chive noodles, the perfect blend of crunchy and soft. A tangy lemon butter sauce is a nice complement to the richness of the dish—perfect for cool-weather dining.
The overall space of Del Frisco’s adds to the dining experience. Modern and chic, the front of the restaurant is dominated by a large bar, flanked by running high-tops and community tables. The design encourages guests to share, which is easy to do with the enticing small-plate menu filled with sharable bites like pimento cheese fritters, ahi tacos and deviled eggs (get the recipe here)—all simply prepared but with purpose and aplomb. A trip to the bar is a must, whether dining or stopping for a drinks, with signature house cocktails on tap and a wide selection of wines on hand—more than 300 labels, brining in well over 3,000 bottles overall.
Dining at Del Frisco’s is a treat, with a large open kitchen presented like a stage for diners to see Fusco (right) and his team of 20-plus chefs and line cooks prepare expertly crafted meals. Watching the team work is a joy, especially with Fusco at the helm, who seemed to be born for the kitchen. “I’ve been cooking my whole life. It’s the only thing I know how to do," he says.
We caught up with Fusco to see what’s cooking in the world of Palm Beach dining.
How did you discover your love for cooking?
My family got me started cooking. I’m Italian, and my grandmother is from Italy, so on Sundays we would have big family dinners. She would show me how to work with the dough making homemade pizzas, focaccias, calzones, and she had me rolling pastas and cavatellis by hand. We would cook every week.
And Mario Batali was a big influence on me, before he was a big star. We would go to his restaurant a lot, even go say hello to him in the back. This was before he blew up. It kind of made me fall in love with cooking.
What’s your cooking philosophy?
My philosophy is simple: Use top-quality ingredients featured in the simplest form with slight contrast on the plate. If it’s done right, with care and passion, that’s the way to create a dish.
Take the brown bag fish. There is contrast all over the place. The texture between the zucchini, potatoes and fish; the difference in temperature between the fish and veggies … it all comes together to bring balance. And when paired with a wine with high acid, it really brings it alive.
What’s your take on steak?
Steak is one of those cocky dishes; it’s like, "Bam—here I am." So I prefer a steak served as it is—from the beginning of time, that’s how its been done. Why mess with it?
What’s one ingredient you can’t do without?
I love a good cold-pressed, unfiltered olive oil. Just the smell of it and the flavor … it’s something that can stand alone. It’s so versatile, and there are so many varieties. I have two in the kitchen: one for cooking and one for drizzling.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
My favorite thing, entrée wise, is the brown bag fish. It’s just kind of an old school classic but done in a modern way. I think it can be a trendsetter. Obviously, it's been done before, but if it's going to make a comeback, we can be pioneers in making that comeback. It’s a top seller over here; people love it, I love it. It’s just a beautiful way to prepare fish.
What’s an ingredient you’re looking forward to this spring?
I’m really looking forward to ramps. We’ll probably start to see them in late February or so. They’re like leeks, smell like garlic, kind of taste like scallions. You can put them in anything [or use them to] make a soup. But I like them naked in a risotto.