Nine On The Line With Daniel Scordato

Pizza in the making (Credit: Scordato’s Pizzeria)

Scordato is a name that has been recognized in the Tucson food scene for decades. The Scordato family’s roots in the restaurant business date back to 1947 in Patterson, New Jersey. After relocating to Tucson in the 1960s, Scordato’s Restaurant opened in 1972, and Daniel Scordato – just 14 years old at the time – began working in the kitchen with his father and brothers.

In 1984, Scordato left to open Daniel’s and in 1993 Daniel Scordato started a new venture, Vivace, which remains a Tucson staple to this day. He also opened Scordato’s Pizzeria in May of 2009.

What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food? 

As a kid, I was crazy for deviled eggs. It is one of my favorite foods, and I could eat a ton of them. It is a complete transformation of the humble egg to a completely different dish.

What are you eating these days?

If there is one food I would consider near perfect, it would be chicken. It is so versatile. You can prepare it in so many different ways.

What was the first dish you remember cooking?

I started cooking young. I was cooking many different things, so it is hard to narrow it to one dish. I began as a broiler cook, and did a lot of broiled steak, chicken and shrimp.

What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can’t stomach?

I am a fan of the local movement, don’t get me wrong. What I don’t like is when quality and flavor is sacrificed just to be local and indigenous. There are some regions where you can not locally source many ingredients, and you don’t want to eat the same thing over and over. Also, there are some landscapes, where in certain seasons, nothing can grow. You have to adapt to your surroundings at times.

Also, bacon with everything. Sometimes bacon is too strong of a flavor to pair with a delicate ingredient, in that case just eat bacon.

What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?

André Soltner, Chef and owner of Lutèce. In the 80s this man was the ultimate chef. He worked every single day his restaurant was open. He didn’t do the cookbook and TV thing, even though he was considered one of the top chefs in the country, until after he was done working. He did not pay attention to food trends and the like, he just concentrated on putting out perfect food, and being the best chef he could be.

What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?

New York City.

Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Fried Chicken. I love it.

Top three Tucson restaurants? 

I like so many different places for so many different reasons. This is a great city for restaurants. I can’t pick three because I eat so much around town, it honestly depends on the day, and what I am in the mood for.

With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?

Veal Marsala, fettuccine alfredo, garlic toast, and older first growth Bordeaux and a coconut cream pie for dessert.

C.J. Hamm is a native Tucsonan and has been covering the local culinary and cocktail scene since 2012.