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Chef Chit Chat: Getting to know Anthony Zappola

February 27, 2019

Anthony Zappola, owner and executive chef of Lox, Stock, and Brisket, wasn’t looking to start a brisket shop when he moved to Cleveland a year ago. Having grown up in Ohio, the accredited chef had just sold his first solo venture, The Rice Shop in Las Vegas, and wanted to be closer to family. Previously, his whirlwind career had led him to work for Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio for over a decade in six roles and four different cities - from New York to Dallas, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where he was awarded Las Vegas Weekly Best New Chef 2014 while working at the acclaimed Mirage’s Heritage. Seeing the potential for opportunities back in his home state, Zappola recalls “I was looking to open more restaurants and Cleveland checked more boxes than I initially thought.” 

Similarly to how his first solo venture came to be, the Lox, Stock and Brisket concept was born out of the character of the space. Originally looking for a good fit for a similar Rice Shop concept in Cleveland, Zappola stumbled upon a promising space in University Heights. It had a built-in meat smoker, and because of the neighborhood, the idea of a modern twist on a Jewish Delicatessen evolved. However, a few months later, with business booming at his first Ohio restaurant, Zappola found a natural fit for the Rice Shop concept in Ohio City Galley. This unique restaurant-accelerator has several chefs operate kitchens under one roof in exchange for a profit share. Taking over the logistics, the food hall allows chefs to focus on their food – and in Anthony’s case, an opportunity for a proof of concept. “Without that set up, it probably wouldn’t have been possible for me to open up two restaurants in 5 months,” Anthony explains. Introducing Asian ingredients with southern American techniques isn’t something that Cleveland has seen before – and Anthony has the rest of 2019 to decide if The Rice Shop has a future beyond Ohio City Galley.

No matter the concept, Anthony is known for making as much of each dish as possible from scratch. For example, at Lox, Stock, and Brisket he smokes his own meats, pickles cucumbers and makes the sauces. When that is the priority, “it all comes down to using the best possible quality ingredients,” Anthony emphasized. Open for breakfast and lunch since April 2018, Lox, Stock and Brisket focuses on deli sandwiches, such as The Upper East Side (brisket, cucumbers, dill, mustard, rye) and Ridge Lane (lox, cream cheese, cucumbers, dill, red onion, bagel), to name a couple. Sides like Matzo Ball Soup, Potato Salad and Coleslaw round out the menu, and meats are also sold by the pound. On the other hand, The Rice Shop, open since October 2018, serves lunch and dinner, offering creations like BBQ Pork Belly, Tuna Poke, and Tofu Green Curry, all served on a bed of rice. To make it even more special, the Ridge Lane and Big Boro sandwiches from Lox, Stock and Brisket make a guest appearance at The Rice Shop every Sunday during brunch.

When asked to reminisce on his past with Colicchio, Anthony is quick to get humble. He explains that when you’re operating independently, it’s easy to get lost in the little things, and miss the big picture. The quick growth he experienced when working for Tom taught him to push himself and hold himself accountable. “When I first started, he only had two restaurants, and when I left that number had increased to nine. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

Although luck may have something to do with it, it’s pretty safe to say that Anthony’s success comes from his unique ability to envision concepts out of unassuming spaces, as well as his dedication to producing the best quality dishes possible. When asked what his go-to food craving is when he’s not busy cooking for others, Anthony had two answers: “I love Asian food. In the winter, my favorite is pho. In the summer, I love food with a Mediterranean influence, especially gyros.” Thankfully in Cleveland, he can find both. We’re excited to see what his future holds. In the meantime, we’re off to get some deli sandwiches. Who’s in?

 

Written by Marianna Marchenko