Steve Martorano - the bling-heavy, personality-plus South Philly-bred celeb chef who migrated to Florida where he created a red-gravy empire that has spread to Las Vegas - is opening a restaurant in these parts.
No one is talking, pending a formal announcement in a few weeks, but I hear that Martorano will set up at Harrah's Atlantic City.
Martorano, who started cooking out of his family home near 26th and Wharton Streets, owned a couple of restaurants in the 1980s, including Macaroni's (later Steve's Italian Kitchen) on Old Bustleton Avenue in the Northeast. (He's a distant cousin of Steve Martorano, the radio host.)
Martorano left Philly in the early 1990s to, as he put it, escape the "family business" run by his now-deceased uncle, mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano.
Talk about a restaurant that's a mob scene.
Martorano now has restaurants in Fort Lauderdale (in a strip mall off A1A where gangster movIes play on the TVs), at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., and at Las Vegas' Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News' Chuck Darrow last year at his flagship eatery in Fort Lauderdale, Martorano described his approach to food. First off, he is a cook, not a chef.
He's known for his meatballs.
"You're not gonna find salmon here, you're not gonna find rack of lamb. I don't like that. Everything I got is basically what I grew up with. I took it to another level. I used better ingredients than my mother used," he said.
As for the location of the Martorano's restaurant at Harrah's, I'm hearing that chef Luke Palladino's Italian restaurant is fixing to move out this summer. Palladino did not return a call for comment on his restaurant's status.
Such a move would have an interesting twist: A South Philly guy preparing to open in Atlantic City, while the Jersey Shore chef prepares to open Palladino's in South Phillly, on East Passyunk Avenue.