With no formal training — other than “the occasional slap to the back of the head” — Victor Todaro is establishing himself as a culinary tour-de-force in Akron’s Merriman Valley.
As the head chef at Piscazzi’s The Merchant Tavern, which opened last fall, Todaro creates simple dishes using quality ingredients, a dream he’s had since childhood. For the past 15 years, he’s worked as a professional chef in restaurant kitchens and credits his “nonni”/grandmother and his father as his culinary influences.
“I’ve been cooking since I could crawl,” Todaro says. “Back in first grade, when they asked what I wanted to be, I said ‘cook.’ My family has always cooked. I’ve never steered away from it.”
Working alongside Todaro to develop the restaurant’s menu and its extensive wine and beer list is his longtime friend and the restaurant’s owner, Anthony Piscazzi. If their surnames ring a bell, it’s because they both hail from a long line of local experts in the dining and hospitality business. Piscazzi’s great-grandmother and great-uncle owned and operated the Merriman Valley’s beloved Wine Merchant restaurant, and Todaro’s family owns Todaro’s Party Center, which lies just around the corner on Akron-Peninsula Road.
“Victor is probably one of the most fun people to work with and be around,” Piscazzi says. “He’s always smiling and exudes positive energy.”
Todaro says he’s living out his dreams every day.
“I get to do what I love and work with Anthony. We have a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s always cool to see something rise from the ground up.”
Piscazzi’s The Merchant Tavern opens at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. To check out the food and drink menu, visit themerchanttavern.com.