The Commercial Appeal
Why Amerigo has been a dining destination for 25 years
Amerigo celebrates 25 years in Memphis this month.
The upscale, casual neighborhood Italian restaurant in East Memphis has been a favorite dining destination for Memphians across the city since it opened its doors in 1998.
“We are honored to celebrate our 25year legacy in Memphis, and we hope to see new and familiar faces in the restaurant this month to celebrate the milestone,” said Andrew Fischer, general manager at Amerigo Memphis and a 21year employee of the restaurant. “We continue to be impressed by the food scene in Memphis, as new restaurants open their doors here every year. The community has been a true partner to Amerigo, and we are so grateful for the years of support.”
To celebrate its 25th anniversary in Memphis, Amerigo is bringing back menu favorites from throughout the years during February.
“We’ve modernized the menu at Amerigo in many ways, but there are still several original menu items that families have been enjoying for three generations now,” said Ben Brock, owner of Amerigo and Memphis Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurateur of the Year. “While so much has changed in the last 25 years, some things are better left untouched. Especially our tiramisu.”
We asked Brock and Fischer to share their thoughts on the success of Amerigo’s Memphis restaurant.
Q: Tell us a little about the history of Amerigo. How did the chain that started in Mississippi come to Memphis?
Ben Brock, owner of Amerigo: The first Amerigo opened in Ridgeland, Mississippi, in 1987 and the second opened in 1991 in Nashville. Since Memphis was centrally located between both and a great food city, the owners kept their eyes on the market until the current location on Ridgeway came on the market in 1997. We were able to get it open by February of 1998. We felt welcomed from day one.
Q: How would you describe Amerigo?
Andrew Fischer, general manager
of Amerigo Memphis: Conceptually for me, Amerigo has always been a warm gathering place for anyone to have a great meal, comfortable service and an interaction with humanity. We’re really proud of what we put out every day and it’s a challenge to maintain that consistency for 25 years.
Q: What are the most popular menu items?
Fischer: There are so many classic dishes that have remained unchanged because of their popularity and the beautiful combination of flavor. Our Piccata (offered in either Veal or Chicken) is arguably the most popular, and a particular staff favorite. Our flame-grilled salmon filet and cedar roasted seabass (which we’ve brought back for our 25th anniversary menu) are two menu items I think the public associates most with us. But some of the items that have gained attention have less to do with our Italian ideal than just really well curated
food: our Fried Catfish special on Fridays, utilizing fresh local catfish filets from Earl and Jill Lake down at Lake’s Farm in Tunica, Mississippi, is a great example.
Q: What do you think has been the restaurant’s recipe for success?
Fischer: Our concept for me, goes far beyond the menu, we’re a personality-driven industry and our employees are the extension of what we aim to achieve in our community. Whether being greeted by Debbie Donahue at the front door every morning for the last 25 years, being waited on by Lance Thompson (24 years) as he brings out a plate of cheese fritters prepared by Barbara Thompson (23 years) and a Goat Cheese pasta tossed by Danillo Perez (16 years), these names, these faces, truly are the embodiment of Amerigo.
Brock: Our team. They truly have grace in their hearts and welcome guests into “our restaurant home.” Several have been with us from day one. Daily, you’ll find loyal regulars dining with us because of how they love our tenured team members. We would not have been able to make it year after year without this committed team who cares so much. They give 100% day in and day out.
Q: How has the restaurant evolved over the 25 years?
Fischer: The beautiful thing is that the restaurant,
from a physical standpoint, remains virtually unchanged — a bit of a time capsule since its initial design. Outside of maintenance and a few face lifts over the years, it remains vividly the ideal I have engraved in memory of the day I first interviewed.
Our menu has evolved over the years to represent a more diverse dining public but at its heart it has remained classic to our decades-long history.
Q: Can you share some of the dishes that are coming back just for the month of February?
Fischer: The anniversary menu features some of the neighborhood favorites, including Cedar-roasted Sea Bass, House-smoked Chicken & Spinach Pizza, Pecan-crusted Redfish, Straw & Hay pasta and Flamegrilled Pork Tenderloin. To pair with the menu selections, two Italian wines will be featured for $25 per bottle.
Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.