More than just great ribs
Friday - October 26, 2007
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Mention ribs to most people and it’s likely their first taste came either from some well-loved family recipe or at America’s first home of ribs, Tony Roma’s. And in reality, the two are pretty much the same.
In the 1970s, Tony Roma owned a neighborhood restaurant in South Florida where he began serving up his own homemade ribs and secret sauce. Word soon spread and today there are more than 200 rib restaurants around the world that bear his name. But like a beauty queen who wants to be known for her charitable works, Tony Roma’s wants the world to know that there’s more to this popular chain than those messy, meaty morsels.
“There’s a new look to Tony Roma’s,” says Hawaii manager Jerry Pastones,“and we want people to know that while we do still have the best ribs, we also do other great dishes too.”
At the Pearlridge location the changes are obvious. Gone are the dark walls and heavy brick, replaced by lighter woods, neutral colors, wooden chairs and intimate booths.
“The look is livelier at Tony Roma’s,” says Pastones. “It’s a little more energized, and there’s a sharper, smarter look to the restaurant.”
Waikiki, he admits, still basks in the glory of the 1970s.
“It’s true that this Tony Roma’s is a blast from the past,” he says of the brick walls, dark wood and intimate dining space, “but that’s one of the things that people have loved about this restaurant - the way it looks.”
Truthfully, what people really have loved at Tony Romas for decades are the ribs, and they won’t be leaving the menu anytime soon.
“We’re always going to have ribs,” says Pastones, “it’s what people expect when they come here.”
Most of the restaurants do a thriving business in steaks, chicken and salads, and now there are new menu items to tempt diners.
“One of our most popular dishes is the new Kickin’ Shrimp,” says Pastones of deep-fried shrimp tossed in a spicy sauce. Another new item proving popular (with those presumably unencumbered by dietary restrictions) is the Grilled Chicken Spinach Stack - two grilled chicken breasts covered with a rich sauce made from four different cheeses, artichoke hearts and creamy spinach.
“It’s like spinach dip with chicken,” says Pastones. “People love it.”
While managing the Hawaii restaurants is his main job, Pastones still wanders back into the kitchen once in a while to keep his hand in.
“It makes you feel good when you prepare a nice meal for someone,” he says, adding that the restaurant puts out some great burgers and steaks. “We pride ourselves on getting the order right, so if a customer wants their burger medium-rare, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
If you’ve always ordered ribs at Tony Roma’s, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good the steaks and burgers are.
“We do want people to know that we have lots of other great dishes on the menu and that the atmosphere is changing,” says Pastones.
“But of course we still want them to come for the ribs.”
Tony Roma’s 1972 Kalakaua Ave. 942-2121
98-150 Kaonohi Street 487-9911
Ala Moana Express 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. 951-9900
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