New chef adds fine dining to Vera’s menu
Waterfront staple boasts new changes
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.”
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.