Over the last decade, restaurateur Tony Gullace has redefined the Rochester dining scene with a family of restaurants and markets named for his godson.
There’s the flagship, Max of Eastman Place; Max Chophouse on Monroe; Max at the Gallery; and Max Market in Pittsford, an emporium for the chef’s go-to ingredients.
On any given day, Gullace visits all of them, which means starting his morning at 3:30am. On Thursdays, the 53-year-old grandson of a Victor, New York, farmer often arrives at the Rochester Public Market before the vendors. “It’s crazy,” he admits, “but that’s just what I do—I get there and wait for the farmers. There are relationships that exist and others where I just walk around and see what’s there.”
During this season of fading light, he designs menus to highlight local fare. “I serve Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Swiss chard—things that are in season now.” Beets will have an extended run in his kitchen, ditto winter squashes, FreshLink herbs and lettuces, arugula, baby frisée. Buy local pledges have become increasingly popular—this time of year, it’s tempting to tack on the phrase “whenever possible.” “It’s a great hedge,” says Gullace, “but it’s always possible. Come February, March, sure it’s a challenge. In the end, though, it really is a lot easier than people make it out to be. Once you start, it becomes easier and easier.”
It helps to have a family legacy of culinary creativity: The chef’s great-grandfather kept a still in his basement; his grandfather, the farmer, made wine. Gullace uses the kitchen of swank Max of Eastman Place as something of an upscale incubator, making his own pates, pancetta and prosciutto. “I can source a great pancetta,” he says, “but to cure and make your own is a lot more fun.” Nothing goes to waste—even Parmesan rinds. “The ends hold significant flavor. We save them to make a very rich and flavorful broth for soups and sauces. We try to use everything.”
2021 article update: Max’s Market is closed, but Max’s Chophouse and Max at Eastman Place are open and offering to go boxes. Check out the menu and stay updated by visiting: maxrochesterny.com.