AFTER STINTS IN MANHATTAN, RHODE ISLAND, AND ITALY AND AT JUST 27 YEARS OLD THIS MEDITERRANEAN FLAVOR GURU HAS ALREADY CARVED OUT A UNIQUE NICHE IN THE PARAMUS CULINARY SCENE
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
When Jimmy Perides was completing his four year culinary degree at Johnson & Wales, he landed an internship at the infamous Babbo in New York City, where he learned the art of pasta making under the tutelage of Chef Mario Batali himself.
“The focus of that restaurant was homemade pasta, and it was there that I learned how to craft deliciously fresh ravioli and gnocchi, along with a range of other varieties,” noted Perides. “It was honestly one of the finest tools I’ve ever learned in my career. The art behind the noodle itself and the level of ingredients at Babbo made it so high end, and very much in demand.”
Blending this handmade carb with exotic, imported products including a mix of quality meats and cheeses also taught Perides how to gracefully complicate simple meals. When he had completed his internship at Babbo, he brought that knowledge to Biagio’s in Paramus.
“My challenge here was to incorporate fine dining aspects into a somewhat casual atmosphere,” he said. “Adding that homemade pasta has made a notable change in the restaurant over the past couple of years.”
Biagio’s is actually where the chef first earned his bones: Owned and operated by Perides’ father for more than 25 years, both it and its associated and banquet hall is where he washed dishes and bussed tables as a teen.
“My father has been a restaurant owner for 40 plus years, so it was kind of in my blood,” he said.
Defining his initiation into the industry as “old school,” Perides did an internship at Café des Artistes in Manhattan before his time at Babbo, and was then mentored by Chef Nino D’Urso of Capriccio Restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. He also cooked abroad in Asiago, Italy at Tre Fonti, under Chef Ricardo.
“I chose to work at Capriccio because it served continental cuisine: a mix of Italian classics entwined with other European in uences,” he explained. “It was a little bit of a larger style restaurant, and on a very busy night, we’d serve 350 to 400 plates. I learned how to produce a large number of dishes at a high standard, which is not easy to do.”
at restaurant was classic in presentation, too; its waiters wore tuxedos and much of the menu was made tableside, which forced him to brush up on fundamentals.
“ e experience of working with a master chef was invaluable,” Perides said. “What I appreciated most was that he wasn’t a chef who just set the rules, he was a working chef…in the kitchen every day cooking like everyone else. Watching someone of his caliber was a tremendous learning experience.”
After his time at Capriccio, Perides embarked on a three month journey to Italy, where he took a culinary tour and worked in a small restaurant just north of Asiago.
“Cooking in Italy is a lot different than cooking here in America,” he explained. “I went to the market every day with the chef to purchase that day’s ingredients. Nothing was bought days in advance; what we now call farm to table is what Italy has been doing forever.”
Perides also toured cheese factories there, and embarked on wine tours, learning about other areas of the country and their strong influences on cuisine. He returned to America in 2003, and began his stint as executive chef at Biagio’s.
“I think what I’m most proud of here is how we’ve grown the catering aspect of the restaurant,” he said, describing menus for weddings and other large a flairs. “I have a strong background in à la carte; cooking for small tables of two to four people is really where I perform best. And at Biagio’s, we use that same philosophy on the catering side. Nothing is done in large quantities. It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking for three people or for 300, it’s all done with great attention to detail. Because of that philosophy, we have carved a creative niche in the catering business.”
Perides also takes the fine dining techniques he learned in Manhattan and adapts them to a New Jersey aesthetic.
“The menu here is more family style and affordable, but we still employ those same ne dining techniques,” he said. “But the marinara and the minestrone is the same as it was years ago, because our customers love it. We’ve just added fresh, homemade pasta and mozzarella and introduced a strong Mediterranean influence.”
When he’s not at the pass, Perides is most likely barbecuing for his wife and three boys.
“My kids understand what my job is and they want to experience it too,” he smiled. “And whatever I make they usually love, but my wife grew up in the restaurant industry, so she’s a little harder to please. I always say she is my toughest critic.”
299 Paramus Road, Paramus / 201.652.0201 / biagios.com