New chef adds fine din­ing to Vera’s menu

Water­front sta­ple boasts new changes

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By CAROL SMITH csmith@somd­news.com

Chef Joe Zagami is pleas­ing the eyes and palates of pa­trons with his art­ful, fine din­ing cre­ations at Vera’s White Sands Restau­rant and Ma­rina, lo­cated on St. Leonard Creek in Lusby.

The water­front restau­rant opens for lunch, din­ner and drinks Thurs­day through Sun­day, and holds weekly live mu­sic events. Vera’s also serves as a venue for wed­dings, bridal or baby show­ers, birthdays, hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions and other spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

Own­ers Lisa DelRicco and Steve Stan­ley pur­chased the land­mark restau­rant and ma­rina in 2006 from Vera Free­man, who owned and man­aged the busi­ness from 1953 to 2005. Free­man passed away in 2007.

DelRicco looked to bring some change to the restau­rant, as well as its menu, and hired Zagami in Au­gust of this year.

“We’ve never had a chef. We’ve had cooks and line cooks,” DelRicco said. “But we wanted to have a re­ally good menu, good foods.”

Zagami said he looks for­ward to bring­ing the change and his culi­nary skills to the lo­cal area.

“I’ve cooked a lot in An­napo­lis and Bal­ti­more and D.C., [this is] kind of a new au­di­ence to bring my ideas to peo­ple. It’s ex­cit­ing,” he said.

Zagami said he be­gan his stud­ies of culi­nary arts at Bal­ti­more In­ter­na­tional Col­lege.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 2010, Zagami said he worked as a line cook at restau­rants around the Bal­ti­more, An­napo­lis and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ar­eas.

“I moved around a good deal be­cause I wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence a lot of dif­fer­ent styles of food,” he said.

In 2011, Zagami said he re­ceived his first sous chef po­si­tion at a restau­rant near An­napo­lis, where he worked as as­sis­tant to the ex­ec­u­tive chef.

“He took my in­ter­est to the next level,” Zagami said.

Zagami said he left his sous chef po­si­tion and went on to at- tend Le Cor­don Bleu Paris in Europe, where he stud­ied for a year un­der a French mas­ter chef.

“Le Cor­don Bleu is the old­est and most pres­ti­gious culi­nary school in the world,” he said. “I had the op­por­tu­nity to work un­der one of the very few French mas­ter chefs in the world. A lot of things that I do are stem­ming from that tra­di­tional French style.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Le Cor­don Bleu, Zagami said he trav­eled through Europe to learn the cook­ing tech­niques of dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

“I trav­eled around Europe for a lit­tle bit, see­ing the world and see­ing how peo­ple do food in their coun­tries,” he said. “Switzer­land, Hol­land, Italy, Ire­land. I learned pasta mak­ing in Italy. I went and took a class in Swit- zer­land on choco­late mak­ing.”

Zagami said that when he re­turned to the States, he went to work as chef de cui­sine at a restau­rant on Kent Is­land.

“I stepped my­self up into a big­ger re­spon­si­bil­ity role in the kitchen,” he said.

Zagami said he later ran kitchens as ex­ec­u­tive chef at restau­rants in the An­napo­lis, Crofton and Columbia ar­eas.

“One of my largest goals af­ter de­cid­ing to move to Europe and go learn was I wanted to be an ex­ec­u­tive chef be­fore the age of 30,” he said. “I ac­tu­ally achieved my goal — I was 25 years old [and] I was de­sign­ing my own menus.”

Zagami said his menu at Vera’s will have chang­ing “weekly spe­cials” de­signed to please seafood lovers and those who are not.

“I’d like to have a chicken, a fish, some type of salad, just some­thing that would ap­peal to any per­son that would walk in here,” he said. “Mainly seafood, but I’d like to have some­body who comes in, who doesn’t like seafood, have some­thing that would ap­peal to them as well.”

“And it’s home­made,” DelRicco added. “He makes his own noo­dles, he makes his own desserts … it’s not out of a box, it’s from scratch … we’ve just never had any­thing like that in here, ever. It’s re­ally some­thing to shout about.”

Zagami said he looks to pro­vide cus­tomers of Vera’s with a din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that will set the restau­rant apart.

“Just some­thing unique, out of the box, but still sim­ple enough that peo­ple get it still,” he said. “Just us­ing re­ally good, fresh in­gre­di­ents and just ex­e­cut­ing things at a higher level.”

DelRicco said that so far, she has heard good things about the changes Zagami brings.

“Very good things. Very won­der­ful things. They love the pre­sen­ta­tion. They love how fast the food comes out,” she said. “We all sell shrimp, we all sell scal­lops, we all sell the same things. But, it’s just the way he makes it and his in­gre­di­ents are awe­some. It’s re­ally good.”

Zagami said the “col­lec­tive goal” is to make Vera’s the des­ti­na­tion place for food and drinks, scenic views and the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“You get great ser­vice. You have a great view,” he said. “There’s not many restau­rants you can come and feel like you’re at a re­sort. For a short pe­riod of time, you sit and have some drinks, eat, and you feel like you’re on va­ca­tion for the night.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY CAROL SMITH

Chef Joe Zagami brings fine din­ing to Vera’s White Sands Restau­rant and Ma­rina, lo­cated on St. Leonard Creek in Lusby.

The out­door din­ing area at Vera’s White Sands Restau­rant and Ma­rina, lo­cated on St. Leonard Creek in Lusby.

A sautéed clam dish pre­pared by Chef Joe Zagami at Vera’s White Sands Restau­rant and Ma­rina, lo­cated on St. Leonard Creek in Lusby.

A salad dish pre­pared by Chef Joe Zagami at Vera’s White Sands Restau­rant and Ma­rina, lo­cated on St. Leonard Creek in Lusby.

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