The vast supper
Bite off more than you can chew at Nosh
Chef Joe Zolnierowski presents the Tomahawk Cut and carves it right at your table.
If gluttony is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
Far from the restaurant’s Yiddish word origin, Nosh’s suppers are less “nibble” and more aligned with its verb definition: to eat enthusiastically. Round up about twelve of your best apostles for this, folks. You will need reinforcement.
Nosh owners Peter Lezeska and John Nacca originally had a dream to open an Italian restaurant. Executive chef and partner Joe Zolnierowski had another idea—one that was new, playful, and far from pretentious. Zolnierowski jokingly elaborates, “I’m an Aries. I don’t like candlelight dinners or long walks on the beach.” With the owners’ trust in Zolnierowski’s previous experience (Mario’s and GRINGO Grill + Cantina in Arizona, to name two), he was given complete creative control to develop a menu based on what he loves eating and cooking.
Zolnierowski is the happy father of a two-year old son, and the proximity to his girlfriend’s family prompted their return to Rochester. His father is Polish and originally from the area, and his mother is Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese. Zolnierowski grew up in Tucson, Arizona, but spent his summers in Rochester with his father’s side of the family from the age of five to eighteen. “It was quite the range,” he says. “I ate things like kimchi, tofu, dried fish, and also kielbasa and pierogi.” Inspired by his roots in Southeast Asian cuisine, meaty Polish dishes, and Southwest living, Zolnierowski constructed the Nosh menu accordingly. He sources a good portion of meat, cheese, and produce locally but swears by buns and tortillas made and flown in from Arizona.
The culinary chops are in Zolnierowski’s blood, and he got an early start: “I grew up cooking with my grandmother when I was really young,” he says. “I would be in the kitchen on a chair watching, mixing, and just being hands-on. My father was and is an amazing cook himself. Watching him create things every night really taught me a lot about food—that it can be fun and doesn’t always have to follow rules of flavor combinations.” By the age of sixteen, Zolnierowski was cooking in a steakhouse. “Everything just led up to where I am now,” he says as he discusses the Nosh culinary team, “I’m truly happy and blessed to have all of them. They come from all walks of life, beginners to executives, and they want to learn. Their passion is what sets them apart.”
The Breasted Yardbird
If you ask him, he’ll tell you his favorite fusion is sweet juxtaposed with spicy. However, he loves the interplay of texture more than flavor: “Cooking Italian has given me an appreciation for quality ingredients, but Asian cuisine stimulates different elements like hot versus cold and crunchy versus soft” He indicates Nosh’s tuna poke with sesame rice cracker as an example and continues, “Overall, I really visualized sharing and an accessible, hands-on, interactive food experience. You know, getting some sauce on your face and just having a good time!”
Speaking of sauce, Zolnierowski tapped into the suds skills of fellow Neighborhood of the Arts business Three Heads Brewing for the stout used in the barbecue concoction that accompanies the Breasted Yardbird supper. Perfectly balanced, it complements the free-range, organic chicken that is brined, seasoned, and smoked in-house. The sauce also plays nicely with the cornbread and pimento macaroni and cheese sides. The supper concept runs the gamut when it comes to guest preferences. “They’re designed to be people pleasers.” Zolnierowski continues, “It’s mainly tables of four to eight sharing these. But, I’ve also watched a few guys order and devour their own individual Tomahawk Cuts.”
The SW Lobster broil
Weighing in at a hefty thirty-four ounces, the Tomahawk Cut will certainly not leave diners asking, “Where’s the beef?” The bone-in ribeye is seasoned after grilling with a dry rub that includes garlic, powdered Worcestershire, and other spices. Zolnierowski then finishes it in the oven for an additional eighteen to twenty-four minutes depending on how the customers like their meat. Served with a side of marrow, porcini butter, grilled vegetables, and perfectly seasoned fries, the popular showstopper arrives fire-branded and is cut at the table by the chef.
Seafood lovers can rejoice over the SW Lobster Broil, where Zolnierowski gives the traditional concept of a lobster boil/clambake a Southwestern twist. One whole Maine lobster is wood-fired and served with cilantro butter and elote-inspired (grilled Mexican street corn) corn on the cob. The concomitant mussels and clams are prepared in a savory seafood stock seasoned with chorizo, garlic, and Three Heads Brewing IPA.
At $45, the Breasted Yardbird is the most affordable of the three supper options, and a portion of the cost benefits Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. Nosh also offers several other menu options that benefit local charities: Cure Childhood Cancer’s Bellied Corn Dogs, Open Door Mission’s Roasted Root, Memorial Art Gallery’s Cioppino, and Seneca Park Zoo Society’s Boar Lasagna. According to Eric Rozestraten, who handles Nosh’s communications efforts, “We couldn’t be happier to be doing this for the Rochester community. It’s still early, but we hope to continue on pace to raise over $15,000 for our community’s nonprofits this year.”
The corn dogs and roasted root pizza are also available on the Nosh lunch menu, which boasts quick hands-on dishes that are a great value for the portion size. Aside from these charitable items and a select few other dishes, Zolnierowski prefers to keep the lunch fare different from the dinner offerings. He is just beginning to offer dinner specials on weekends and some seasonal menu changes, and lovers of “Sunday Funday” can get excited about the brunch menu slated to debut in November. While a good portion of the Nosh cuisine caters to carnivores, Zolnierowski can accommodate vegetarians when they inquire with their server. “I keep marinated tofu and vegetables on hand. We can do substitutions like roasted carrot tacos instead of meat. I also like to use burrata. So, it can be a fun challenge but ultimately, my passion is not for cooking vegan. I like cheese, and there are other people in town doing vegan well.”
Thirsty patrons can whet their whistles over a delectable wine, beer, and Scotch list. Bar manager and chief publican Randy Maier has done an exceptional job curating the cocktail selection with signatures like the Nitrate 35, classics like the Hemingway daiquiri, and several sangrias and “Beertails.” Zolnierowski mentions the tight-knit local food and beverage industry and the local United States Bartenders’ Guild chapter and how supportive they have been during Nosh’s opening. “Every day I spend in Rochester, I love it more,” he continues. “And as long as everyone loves the food, it’s like cooking for friends.”
Stacey Rowe is a freelance writer based in Rochester.