Armani’s & Oystercatchers: Talking with the men who make the magic
There’s nothing quite like sitting at an Armani’s window table at sunset. Looking out at a grand expanse of water and sky from the 14th floor of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, it’s impossible not to feel a little bit romantic.
Or a lot: According to Armani’s new General Manager, Jay Wisler, “We have proposals almost every night, sometimes multiple proposals in one evening.”
Armani’s and its sister restaurant at the Grand Hyatt, Oystercatchers, have been doing some celebrating of their own lately. Besides bringing on Wisler and a new Chef de Cuisine, Jonathan Wilson, Armani’s has once again won a coveted Four Diamonds rating from AAA. And Oystercatchers, the acclaimed seafood restaurant, recently landed on the Tampa Bay Times’s Top 50 Restaurants list.
It seemed a good moment to ask the folks who run these restaurants the secrets of their success. Excerpts from our email conversation follow.
Armani’s GM Jay Wisler
dR: Congrats on the 4 Diamonds. What are your goals for Armani’s? We obviously want to continue the excellent standard Armani’s has set over the years, while growing with modern cuisine twists on classic Italian entrees. Armani’s is so much more than a place to celebrate special occasions. We have opened our lounge area at 5 p.m. now to accommodate our happy hour crowd and early diners as well.
I’ve always wondered where the name comes from. It’s actually a simple story. When the hotel was being built back in 1986, two investors went to the top floor and decided they wanted it to be a really nice Italian restaurant. One asked the other, “What should we call it?” The other guy happened to be wearing an Armani tie, and replied, “How about Armani’s?” And so, Armani’s was born.
Armani’s Chef Jonathan Wilson
dR: What are some of the changes you’ve made or plan to make in the menu? We just put out our new menu in May, which has had nothing but great reviews. The dish I’m most excited about for the fall menu is squid ink lasagna. Yummy.
What’s the one dish Armani’s diners have to try?
For me it would be our elk meatball, [with] fresh pasta, pomodoro sauce, three-year aged parm and fine herbs.
Oystercatchers GM Justin Beach
Seafood is clearly a strength of the restaurant. How do you maintain that quality? We receive our seafood fresh every day. Our chefs personally examine all seafood deliveries to ensure that it meets our high-quality standards.
What distinguishes Oystercatchers from its upstairs neighbor? While Armani’s is a fine dining restaurant that requires a dress code, our atmosphere provides the perfect environment for those guests looking to dress up for an occasion or have a more relaxed night out.