Round two with Daniel Ramirez, exec chef of Gaetano's
Part one of my interview with Daniel Ramirez, exec chef of Gaetano's, ran yesterday; this is part two of our chat.
Favorite food city in America: San Francisco is unrivaled when it comes to food diversity, and it's also the home to some of the country's oldest and best Italian restaurants. In 1999, I went there for the first time for a two-day manager meeting and got to eat at some of the old-school Italian restaurants there, including Fiore d' Italia in the Hotel San Remo. It was amazing.
- Daniel Ramirez, exec chef of Gaetano's, on chicken, checks and culinary schools
- Exclusive first look: The new Gaetano's reopens on Saturday
- Is a meal at the revamped Gaetano's an offer you can't refuse?
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Il Fornaio, because it's one of the few authentic Italian restaurants where the pastas are made in-house, as are the breads, desserts and sauces. I worked there for several years, and when I eat out, I still love to go there.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: You can get a great burger and a beer for less than $10 at Mead Street Station. The place reminds me of an old-time tavern.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? I know everyone says this, but I love making people happy through my food. When plates come back into the kitchen completely clean -- no food left on them -- it's so rewarding. That's when you know that you've made your guests happy.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? Better late-night restaurants. I really wish there more places to go after a party or a night on the town that served really great food.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: My grandfather used to drive a truck in Mexico, and when I was young, he'd sometimes take me on trips with him. We'd stop to eat at this one restaurant right on the ocean and order fresh red snapper just pulled out of the water. The restaurateur would show me this huge fish before he cooked it, and I remember thinking how gigantic it was. The fish tasted so good and fresh, and the preparation was incredibly simple, the way it should be. Even now, I still love a really well-cooked, simple plate of fish.
Favorite childhood food memory: When I was a kid, my mom would make rice balls with shrimp in a light tomato broth, and I'd always eat a ton of it. She'd cook the rice and grind the shrimp, and then she'd mold them into balls and cook them in a tomato broth with cilantro, onions, garlic and oregano. I couldn't stop eating it because it was so, so good. Back then, shrimp was very expensive and most people didn't eat them often. My mother always made sacrifices to give the best she could.
Favorite junk food: Whenever I have the opportunity to eat tacos, I do. I love that you can just take a tortilla and put anything in it -- meats, seafood, vegetables or poultry -- add some Mexican salsa, and, voilà, it's a taco. They're so good, so simple and totally portable