In the past year, I’ve ordered a lot of food online.
Pickup. Delivery. Drive-through. Curbside.
It’s been smoked and fried and grilled with a side of every type of sauce you could imagine.
I’ve door dashed, grub hubbed and chowed now.
But one day earlier this month, a chef finally offered me something I hadn’t seen when ordering online: Chef’s Choice.
I was on at least my fifth restaurant on the Door Dash app when I clicked on Got A Guy Eatery in Calverton, which was within delivery range of the house I was rushing to. If I timed it just right, I had enough time to beat the delivery driver there, quickly eat my food and hop on a Zoom call. I certainly had no time to cook that evening.
So I clicked on Chef’s Choice, which featured the description, “Let Chef Anthony surprise you with a dish of his choice.” The price: $20.
“’Surprise me,’ I get a lot of that,” explained Chef Anthony Asciolla, who opened the restaurant as a pizza place with Italian entrees in 2019. “With the pandemic, I get a lot of [repeat customers]. They say ‘I’m over the Italian food. Make me something else.’”
I can relate. There are times these days, where I feel I’m over food in general, as much as I love to eat. It’s just that Covid has forced me to order more of the same and limit how often I try new places, particularly as I work from home, social distance and travel less.
So I rolled the dice, letting Chef Anthony, who I’d never met, and whose food I’d never tried, decide what I was eating that night.
What did he make me? I honestly had no idea what to call it, even after eating it.
“It was the Shakedown Stew,” he explained when I called him days later. “It’s an Italian stew, really.”
The dish featured gnocchi and sliced skirt steak in a tomato basil sauce. It’s not something I’d ever cook or order or even think about. Yet I ate it up, right to the very last bite.
Got A Guy is one of those places I’d heard about fairly often since it opened about two years ago. I hadn’t tried because frankly I thought it was just another strip mall pizza place and I already have my spots for home and road slices. If I’m gonna drive out of my way for pizza, I’d head in the opposite direction to Colosseo in Port Jeff.
Talking to Chef Anthony, who grew up in Bay Shore and admits he didn’t have a great lay of the land when he opened up shop in Calverton, I see he quickly realized that he was in a saturated pizza market.
“I was one of like 15 pizza shops around here,” he said.
Having worked more than 20 years at everything from fast food to chain restaurants and small bistros, the 42-year-old was used to cooking many different things, and was actually “kind of bored” with Italian.
When the pandemic hit and other places were starting to close down, he began messing around with different types of food. He loves making Asian and Caribbean dishes, so he gradually started adding that to the menu, despite his restaurant originally being call an “Eataly” and having a mafia theme in a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his Italian heritage.
He still offers “grandma’s cooking,” as he describes it, but now with an eye on the fact that not everyone’s grandma grew up listening to Perry Como.
The chef’s new menu features jerk chicken with sweet plantains, sesame chicken, chicken and waffles and an “inside out chicken marsala” dish he said is the most popular item. You want a Po Boy? That’s on the menu right next to a Cuban sandwich and a cheesesteak. These days, Asciolla is cooking almost anything but pizza, which is now limited to personal pies.
“I do a lot of different funky s**t,” he said.
It’s resulted in a bit of a cult following of people who sing the chef’s praises on social media and have kept his business afloat in a location that hadn’t been kind to his predecessors and at a time when we all just want to see restaurants find success.
It’s a fitting coincidence that Got A Guy is located in the same Calverton Commons shopping center as Golden Jalapenos, where Chef Luis Siguencia similarly worked in a variety of restaurants and loves feeding his customers all different types of food in his very own place.
Chef Anthony said he, too, is enjoying having that free range of options for what he wants to cook at the first restaurant he’s ever owned. The customers, he said, are becoming like family. They got a guy and he’s happy to surprise them.