As Bryan Forgione recounts a tale about how he nearly got into alligator wrestling, one thing is clear: Whether he would be able to dominate the reptile or end up getting chomped, Forgione would keep his cool.
The level-headed chef, 36, is all about work/life balance these days. That’s not the easiest thing for any chef, but Forgione has the added pressure of coming from a legendary culinary family. His father, Larry, has had such an influence on the culinary landscape that he’s often called the godfather of American cuisine. His older brother Marc is currently an Iron Chef.
Bryan Forgione came to Vegas to pursue his love of barbecue with the goal of opening his own joint for smoked meats. But as the economy crashed, he took a gig under chef Kim Canteenwalla at Society Cafe. Canteenwalla and his wife, Elizabeth Blau, operate Buddy V’s Ristorante, where Forgione is the chef.
Forgione feels a kinship to the cuisine of Cake Boss TV star Buddy Valastro. They both grew up in East Coast Italian families. That means Sunday dinners and pots of sauce simmering all day. He calls the menu’s Sunday gravy dish “the heart and soul of the restaurant.” Grandma’s meatballs, spicy Italian sausage, lamb neck and pork shoulder stew in a red sauce. It’s served with al dente rigatoni. “It’s food that makes you smile,” Forgione says.
Dishes like Buddy’s Caprese take that extra step. Rosso Bruno tomatoes are the base, followed by a layer of burrata cheese. Then there’s tomato confit made from teardrop and cherry tomatoes, which are deep fried in extra virgin olive oil and marinated in garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and even more olive oil. A balsamic reduction and fresh basil finish things off. “You got the sweetness, the acidity, the saltiness and a touch of bitterness,” Forgione says. “We like to hit all the different flavors in your mouth.”
It’s a dish, like the chef who presents it, that’s all about balance.