Studio 275 on Main Street is a mixture of dining, studio and classroom all in one - and a special treat for everyone!
Tucked away at the corner of Main and Elizabeth Street where Hubbell's Shoe originally stood is one of Derby's secret gems for anyone who enjoys fine food, fun, entertainment and a bit of Derby history all at the same time. Chef Leo Moscato, Jr.'s Studio 275 is an unusual combination of features that add up to a culinary experience that cannot be found anyplace else in the city - or maybe even the entire state. Intrigued by a recent newsletter featuring upcoming "Epicurean Adventures" at the Studio by the names Ciao Italiano, Oktoberfest, and Chinese New Year, we ventured down to the Studio to find out just what is going on there.
A friendly Chef Leo - better known "Leo the Grape" - was waiting, and he has quite a story to tell. A graduate of Derby High School, he attended the University of New Haven before he went on to graduate from the fabled Culinary Institute of America. He was more than happy to share his story and a tour of the eclectic mixture of features that make Studio 275 like no other place that you have ever been. The kitchen is the centerpiece of the facility where Leo not only performs his culinary magic, but also conducts his classes and demonstrations. If you can't get a seat at the counter that borders the kitchen, you can still see Leo at work at any of the TV screens throughout the room which play a special role in Leo's signature "themed" dinners. More on those later.
You will find all of your senses stimulated when you are at Studio 275, and you really need to pay close attention or you will miss some of the fine details. Though Leo only opened this business three years ago, he and the Moscato family are no strangers to downtown Derby. They erected the current building as a cornerstone of Derby's downtown renewal efforts in 1976. In 1979, they opened the Olde Brimingham Restaurant next door in the historic Birmingham Bank Building, and Leo spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen there. If you look closely, you will see many signs of the city's great history surrounding you. Some of the tables even have historic financial bonds from the city's past serving as the tops of the tables!
Leo also spent time as a private executive chef and did some very specialized catering in locations from Ellis Island to Florida. He even found time to collaborate on producing a cookbook, "All-Pro Recipes" which featured recipes by NFL football players including a recipe for Carrot Cake by legendary Derby High School Football Coach Lou DeFilippo. Leo played a little football himself, but his job was to provide the culinary expertise and cooking tips for the book. He did manage to sneak in his own special recipe for Cream Cheese Cake Flavored with Liqueur which was a specialty at the Olde Birmingham. You can still get yourself a copy of the book by visiting Amazon.com.
Getting back to the restaurant -- after the Olde Birmingham closed, Leo decided to open something new in the middle of Derby, something different - not quite a restaurant - but centered on food and fun. Hence was born Studio 275 where food is the center piece, but presented in unique and fun ways. Let's take a closer look at some of Leo's special events to see what we mean. How about Ciao Italiano. With a full name like Ciao Italiano - A feast for friends and family, you can guess what awaits you. To whet your appetite a bit, here is the description:
"This meal features traditional Italian
dishes as well as some classical ones that you will sure to savor.
Leo has been know to spice up his Italian nights with enhanced themes such as "Godfather" and "Goodfellas" and the video screens feature the movies with accompanying music. For "Asian Night" he brought in a special Sushi Chef. You can only guess what his "Jaws" night was like!
Special themed dinners are held about once a month, and you can check out the Studio 275 website for more information. Leo is currently exploring the idea of expanding his culinary demonstrations to Friday and Saturday nights with a special prefix menu. Also in the works may be a comedy club in another part of the building.
Chef Leo Moscato, Jr. and Studio 275 are examples of the special and often under-publicized things that make Derby a special city. He and his family are part of the fabric of the city. He has children attending the Derby schools and he lives in a home once owned by a former mayor of the city - Dr. Harry Cicia. The house is on Lewis Street which Interestingly enough is named for a Mr. Lewis who was the first teller and manager of the Birmingham National Bank and the Moscato family now owns the building!
Oh by the way - in case your were wondering where the nickname "Leo the Grape" came from, there is a perfectly fitting explanation. Moscato is not only the family name, but also the name of a white wine grape, hence Leo Moscato is "Leo the Grape"!
This is the first in a periodic series of stories about people and places that make the City of Derby a special place to live.