THE SCOOP: Q&A with Rinaldo's Italian American Specialties
Back in June of 2015, brothers and childhood BFFs Sam and Tony Rinaldo set up shop on the front lawn of Nauss Bicycle Shop on Agricola Street. They were immediately known as T Dogs, but insiders were aware that this was just the beginning for the duo. Both armed with years of experience in kitchens around the world — some big-name places too — the vision was always to open a restaurant in their hometown of Halifax. A place where they could celebrate their love for great food, and a place where they could pay respect to their dad, Salvatore Rinaldo, the person who instilled this passion in them from an early age.
When did you guys start working together?
Tony: Before we both left Halifax, I was chef at Rogi Orazio, an Italian restaurant in the Hydrostone, and Sam eventually became my sous chef there.
When did you first leave town to go work in kitchens abroad?
Tony: This was back when I was 21. That was 12 years ago. We both went to Las Vegas, taking advantage of having dual citizenships to go work in the resorts. We stayed there a year and then moved onto Jasper, Alberta to continue working the resort circuit.
And then you guys came back?
Tony: Yeah, we both eventually returned and worked for Hamachi Group, myself only for a year and Sam a little longer. After a year I moved to Montreal to work at restaurants there and Sam came to join me. I worked in Montreal for six years and did some stages at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York, and then eventually left for Lyon, France, where I worked for eight months. I then returned to Canada and worked at Parts & Labour in Toronto for their catering team, eventually becoming the chef of their catering division.
And then you got the itch.
Tony: After a while in Toronto there was something inside me that said I want to come home. That's when I decided I was gonna move back. Sam had already returned home, and that's when I gave him a call and said, "Let's start our own business." Shortly afterwards we started T Dogs.
Insiders already know this, but T Dogs was really just a gateway to Rinaldo's, correct?
Tony: Yeah, we started T Dogs together with our good friend Pat and worked really hard at it, but we always wanted to do Italian American food, but our own way, so we started Rinaldo's Italian American Specialties shortly after. That was always the plan all along.
That's when you went to the CEED (Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development)?
Tony: We wanted to learn some of the fundamentals of being an entrepreneur and wanted to be in an enviroment outside of the kitchen where we could be with others who we could share ideas with and bounce ideas off of.
And now you are about to open Rinaldo's in the space on Windsor Street where The Good Food Emporium was just a month ago.
Tony: Late April to early May is what we're looking at.
What's the focus going to be at Rinaldo's? What can we expect on the menu?
Tony: The menu is going to be our family recipes done our way, Italian American, casual, approachable. We're gonna have handmade pasta, cavatelli, hero sandwiches, New York-style pizza, salads, different appetizers, beer, cider, mixed drinks. Jenner Cormier is gonna come help design the bar. We're also gonna have a specials board which will rotate over time. That's where I'm going to be touching on more of my fine dining training, working at places like Nora Gray and working in France.
You guys are looking to open in early May. For first time customers coming in, what's the first thing they should order?
Tony: I think you should order the meatball hero sandwich. I feel like the meatball hero is the perfect combination of our father's style and our own. The fried chicken biscuit sandwich might be the one if you are coming for brunch.