Buon appetito! Strano has made a big move — several actually! With a larger location in a new neighborhood, a new menu and a slightly different name, Strano by Chef Josh opened in June in the heart of East Memphis at the corner of Poplar Avenue and Perkins Extended.
This is the second restaurant for Chef Josh Steiner. Strano! Sicilian Kitchen & Bar was his first foray into the restaurant business. Josh closed his popular Cooper-Young restaurant this past spring in anticipation of opening in a new larger location. “I loved our Midtown location and really didn’t want to leave. However, the opportunity came to take over the East Memphis space, and we couldn’t miss it. It is the perfect space to accommodate our growth, both creatively and volume-wise,” he explains of his decision to move.
At age 27, Josh is young for an executive chef and restaurant owner. But his passion and years of experience — he has been working in professional kitchens since he was a young teen — have made him a seasoned chef. “It may sound cliché, but the chef life chose me. I have always enjoyed cooking, and it came so naturally for me. When I was just 15 and working in restaurants, the staff I worked with told me I should pursue cooking. Whether at home with family or working at a restaurant, I always loved every minute of being in the kitchen. Cooking is truly my passion,” he says.
The new restaurant showcases a Sicilian menu with influences from Greek, Arab, Spanish and Northern African cuisines. It is international-inspired fare that comes naturally for Josh.
“Strano is my mother’s maiden name. My mom’s side is Sicilian, and Sicily, though Italian at its core, is a melting pot from years of different cultures moving in and out,” Josh explains. “My grandparents have passed down so many wonderful recipes that I then use my culinary training and intuition to creatively reconstruct into something new, yet old, and very delicious. I also just love taking ideas from all the places I have visited and trained in and turning them into a beautiful dish.”
“I created the concept of Strano from my lifestyle and training. I know you hear the term ‘farm-to-table’ frequently, but that is what we actually practice at Strano. I actually grew up on a farm and learned how to garden and grow fresh herbs and vegetables. I continue that practice here at Strano. Whatever we can grow, we grow it! We believe in using the freshest ingredients to their fullest taste potential,” he adds.
For a bite of Josh’s family’s Sicilian fare, start with Mama’s Meatballs. House-made meatballs are tossed in Strano’s signature marinara, topped with freshly grated aged Parmesan and served with grilled bread. It’s a hearty portion perfect for sharing.
“Mama’s Meatballs and our house artisan bread are two of my favorite things on the menu,” says Josh when asked what the must-orders are. “I eat these pretty much every day. It reminds me of my childhood and, honestly, they are just really tasty.”
Tuna with Sunchoke Three Ways is one of the more unique and tasty seared tuna preparations in town. Josh encrusts fresh tuna in coriander and black pepper and serves it perfectly seared to rare. The sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are served as fried crisps, mashed and as a spicy sauce. The dish has a Mediterranean flair to it.
If wanting to take advantage of local produce, Josh recommends the watermelon gazpacho. “Filled with fresh watermelon, lime juice, fresh cucumber and mint, it is a chilled soup that is perfect for summer. We first tested it at Zoo Rendezvous, and it was a smashing hit, and now that temperatures have warmed up, we have brought it in for the summer.”
Strano also has several pasta selections from which to choose. The grilled lamb gnocchi is one of Josh’s top recommendations. “The dish is a lamb demi-glace cream sauce tossed with fresh tomatoes, red onion, potato gnocchi and topped with wood-grilled lamb.”
If in the mood for fish, try the Alaskan King Salmon. The salmon is smoked on a wood grill and served with pesto risotto, spicy spinach and grilled cauliflower. The pesto risotto is the perfect complement to the salmon.
And last but not least, an Italian restaurant would not be complete without pizza. Josh serves up 12-inch pizzas that are a great option for a shareable appetizer or an entrée for one or two – depending on how hungry you are. The homemade hand-tossed crust is on the thicker side, so don’t expect the thin-crust pizza you find at other restaurants around town. This is real-deal Sicilian-style pizza.
After dinner, order a glass of Josh’s handcrafted limoncello. Traditionally served in Italy as an after-dinner digestive, it’s the perfect ending to a delizioso meal.
Strano by Chef Josh is located at 518 Perkins Extd., Memphis, TN 38117. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call (901) 275-8986 or visit stranobychefjosh.com.
Special thanks to Philip Murphy of Philip Murphy Photography for the wonderful photos.
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