Michael Cirafesi is venturing out on his own. The former executive chef at the highly regarded Michael Anthony's restaurant on Hilton Head plans to open Ombra Cucina Rustica in early August in the Village at Wexford.
The menu will feature classical Italian cuisine with some modern, innovative flair, he said.
Cirafesi and his business partner, chef Nunzio Patruno of Philadelphia, bought the space where Lowery Group restaurant Antonio's used to be. They're in the process now of gutting and refurbishing the interior.
His business partner is also his mentor. Cirafesi studied under Patruno as a young chef in Philadelphia. (Patruno has garnered many accolades for his restaurants in Philly and south Jersey.) They'd been discussing for a year about opening a restaurant on the south end of the island.
Cirafesi cooked at Michael Anthony's for 11 years, where he became known not just for his food but for his frequent cooking classes. In 2010, OpenTable users selected Michael Anthony's as one of their top 50 Italian restaurants in the country. Cirafesi said he was grateful for his time there but was ready to get his own place.
"It's every chef's dream to open their own (restaurant)," he said. "I loved being an executive chef. But it's even better to own."