In the kitchen with… ADNAN TAHIROVIC

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In the kitchen with… ADNAN TAHIROVIC

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2016-02-11 / Cuisine

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In the kitchen with… ADNAN TAHIROVIC,
La Fontana Pizzeria & Ristorante, North Palm Beach

Chef Adnan Tahirovic infuses dishes from his native Sarajevo into La Fontana’s mostly Italian menu.Chef Adnan Tahirovic infuses dishes from his native Sarajevo into La Fontana’s mostly Italian menu.
Although the majority of his menu offers a wide variety of celebrated Italian dishes, Chef Adnan Tahirovic loves to tempt his loyal customers with delicious entrees from his native Sarajevo.

“The restaurant was originally opened to serve Italian food, but I wanted to introduce Mediterranean and Balkan food as well,” he said. “So most of the menu is Italian, but about 20 percent of it is food from my part of the world. Most Americans, especially those here in Florida, have never tried it, because there are not too many Balkans that have opened restaurants here. But once they’ve tried it, they keep coming back for more.”

Chef Tahirovic found his passion for cooking at 13, visiting restaurants run by some of his cousins in Sarajevo.

“My uncle, my father and my brother were all in the restaurant business as well and were my mentors,” he said. “In a family-run restaurant, everyone is involved.”

Chef Tahirovic, who co-owns La Fontana Pizzeria & Ristorante with other family members, came to the United States under difficult circumstances. He was one of many citizens of Bosnia- Herzigovina who fled the country during the “ethnic cleansing” of the early 1990s.

“My sister had moved to America in the late 1980s and when war came to my country, my family decided to leave and join her here in 1993,” he said. “Since we knew the restaurant business, we were successful in operating them here in the Palm Beach area.”

Popular Italian dishes on La Fontana’s menu include Chicken Francese ($16.95) and Veal Francese ($19.95), as well as Chicken Marsala ($17.95) and Veal Marsala ($19.95), which are made from old family recipes Chef Tahirovic brought with him from his native country. A favorite Mediterranean entree is the Cevapi ($8.95 small, $14.95 large), which consists of Balkan beef sausages served with onions and pita bread.

“We bake our own bread fresh daily,” Chef Tahirovic said. “We don’t buy bread anywhere. Nothing is premade. We have our own bakery here in the restaurant and we make bread by the order. That’s how fresh it is.”

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His favorite menu item — which isn’t always on the menu — is Osso Buco, a beef dish that contains marrowbone, stewed in wine.

In his hours away from the restaurant, Chef Tahirovic does no cooking.

“In my house, everybody cooks,” he said, with a laugh. “My son and wife are extraordinary chefs. So I’m well fed. I like soups and stews. I really like beef stew and Hungarian Goulash ($17.95), which, by the way, is a dish we are very well known for here at the restaurant. People come from as far away as Tampa and Naples for it. It’s a unique and authentic recipe.”

Eventually Chef Tahirovic would like to get into Eastern European cuisine.

“I would like to explore Polish, Russian, the northern part of Europe and even Sweden food,” he said. “I know a lot about this cuisine, but I’ve never had a chance to really unlock its secrets. I would really like to do that.”

Adnan Tahirovic Age: 57 Original Hometown: Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzigovina Restaurant: La Fontana Pizzeria & Ristorante, 1201 U.S. Highway 1, Suite 38, North Palm Beach, 408-3295, Mission: To blend Balkan and Mediterranean dishes into its predominantly Italian menu. Cuisine: Pizza, Italian, Mediterranean dishes Training: Culinary schools in Bosnia- Herzigovina and 20 years’ experience in the U.S. restaurant business. What’s your footwear of choice in the kitchen? Mozo restaurant work shoes. What advice would you give someone who wants to be a restaurateur or chef? “Be 100 percent honest, be consistent and never change your recipes.” ¦