Nine on the Line

Ramiro Scavo

Ramiro Scavo, chef/owener of Pasco Kitchen & Lounge, 820 E. University Blvd., began working in restaurants in 1994 as a 14-year-old busboy, and has worked in them ever since. Scavo was living in Phoenix with his wife (then girlfriend) and visiting her family in Tucson on a monthly basis. He fell in love with our city, and on one of their drives he said to his lady, "We should open a restaurant here one day." A year later while he was working for Sam Fox, Fox Restaurants was opening Montana Avenue and needed a chef. Ramiro applied, and in February 2006, he was a Tucson chef. In 2011 he and his wife started Pasco Kitchen & Lounge–Urban Farm Fare.

C.J. Hamm,

What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food? Gotta go with the beef stew from fourth grade. My English teacher brought in a bunch of books to class and our assignment was to find an article and talk about it. I came across a cookbook and for the first time in my life I wanted to read! I couldn't stop going through the recipes. It was an older book that had no pictures but I remember being able to envision the dishes, the vegetables and sauces. I came across a beef stew recipe that just had me so excited. I wrote down the recipe and took it home. That night my mom helped me make it and I was subconsciously hooked.

What are you eating these days? Indian food, I've never eaten as much as I have eaten this year, Saffron, Twisted Tandor, keep up the good work, yo! What was the first dish you remember cooking? BEEF STEW! But the first special I remember making was a "Braciole" style appetizer with grilled asparagus and toasted orzo. I was 18 at the time and the stuffed and rolled Flank Steak my dad would make us at home was one of my favorites. It was nice to see that home-style classic food could be served in a modern restaurant, because that is what I was raised on and is my foundation of food still to this day. What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can't stomach?

Nitrous. I sometimes find that many dishes I have tried on tasting menus tend to have a lot of N20 blasted in them. My wife and I went to a world famous chef's restaurant last year that uses a lot of molecular gastronomy techniques and not even half way through, we were getting mad full, but like air-style full. Don't get me wrong, air is a chefs friend—that's how we get silky smooth and light sauces but that's natural air from whipping, whisking or stirring. Not everything needs to be blasted in a can, except beer. Beer's cool!

What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with? My grandmother, Teresa Benavidez. She owned a restaurant in Chicago for many years and we have more family members than most restaurants have seats, so she was always cooking. I talk a lot about the fourth-grade recipe I went home and cooked, or restaurants and chefs I've worked for, but my grandmother's house is the heart and soul of all that. Running in her kitchen for her to give me a freshly handmade and pressed flour tortilla with a 'lil' butter on it is my greatest food memory of all. What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat? CHICAGO! The place of my birth, I love that city! Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure? Éclairs from Village Bakehouse. My mother in-law has to order an extra dozen of those or nobody gets any for our Christmas parties. Or Vitamin T. You ever heard of Vitamin T? You know, Tacos; Tamales; Tostadas; Tortas; Tortillas it's not junk food but it's my pleasure.

Top three Tucson restaurants? (In this case, Chef Ramiro opted to name chefs rather than restuarants, but we'll let that slide)

My right hand man Chef Drew Buono of Pasco Kitchen & Lounge, Ken Harvey and Staff at Loews, Ryan Clark and Brandon Dillon of Agustin and the chef of my home, Boss Lady Kelly Scavo. I know it's more than three, but I eat a lot!

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

I'm going out the way I came in, eating tortillas, my dad's tomato pasta sauce and my mother's Spanish rice. Not all on one plate. They would be among a huge table consisting of things like Florida stone crab claws, spit roasted pig, dry aged beef, venison backstrap, the "Oyster and Pearls" dish from The French Laundry, real wild salmon and lots and lots of roasted peppers and chilies grown by my Tucson friends!