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5 questions with Tony Marchese

Restaurant Hospitality editor Mike Sanson attended the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 18-21. The event attracts more than 5,000 attendees, celebrated chefs, wine makers and spirits experts. A component of the festival is several trade panels designed specifically for restaurant operators. Sanson’s focus was on covering those trade panels and interviews with top chefs and industry experts attending the event. • See more Owner Interviews

RH: So, Tony, what brings you to the Classic?

Marchese: I coproduce the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival and I wanted to see what the folks are doing here in Aspen. This is a terrific event and I’ve learned a lot in the trade seminars and I’ve hung out with some pretty cool chefs and owners.

RH: A recurring theme here has been the decline of upscale and the rise of the casual sector. How has that affected your business?

Marchese: Trio is a fun place and our color palette is orange and many people who come here wear orange. The menu is California comfort food and our number one seller is pot roast, even in the heat of the summer. So, we’re not so upscale.

RH: The Purple Room is a supper club, which would lead one to think it has upscale leanings.

Marchese: It’s an old club that dates back to the Rat Pack. Frank Sinatra even got engaged here. But California has always been laid back and more relaxed. And when the economy took a dive, it got even more relaxed. The food is not fancy at all. It’s good comfortable food paired with good entertainment.

RH: This Aspen event happens to fall on Father’s Day weekend. Did you ever cook for your dad and what was his favorite thing to eat?

Marchese: I started working in an Italian deli restaurant in the Chicago suburbs when I was 13. My dad loved lasagna and I would make him that.

RH: This weekend in Aspen is all about food, wine and cocktails. What’s the cocktail scene like in Palm Springs?

Marchese: Craft cocktails and bourbon seem to take up a large part of the conversation. Guests still want a good Manhattan, whether it’s hot or not. The days of having to drink a red wine with steak are over. People are drinking what they want to drink.

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