Tony “Bama” Desanto, owner of Ribit’s BBQ, picks the hanger steak with bacon and egg from 717 South
Tell me how Ribit’s BBQ came to be.
I won a barbeque contest during the 2009 Super Bowl and got talked into opening a restaurant. I placed third overall out of 400 contestants. The judge’s asked me ‘where’s your restaurant?’ And I had to tell them I don’t have one.
Had you ever cooked professionally before?
No, barbeque was just a hobby. I would have friends over to the house and they enjoyed it. But you don’t know how good your cooking is until you have to serve and sell it.
Why did you decide to open a place on Howard Avenue?
I remember sitting at the Tacqueria (now World of Beer) and looking at the old gas station and thinking it would be a cool place to open a barbeque joint.
When did you officially open Ribit’s BBQ?
January 2010, a year after the contest. I would smoke barbeque all night and sell sandwiches to the bar people. Then I’d go home and shower and come back to start working on the interior of the gas station. I’d never served anything before in my life. I knew nothing about the restaurant business. Now I’m serving about 3,000 pounds of meat every week and about 500 pounds of mac and cheese. I’m always on the grill. No one does my barbeque but me.
What’s one dish everyone should try at Ribit’s?
The Memphis Mary: a pork sandwich with coleslaw on top. Or I’d say the mac and cheese. People love our mac and cheese.
What kinds of cheese are in it?
I can’t tell you that, brother.
Where did the name Ribit’s come from?
One day I was asking my daughter what sound each animal made during a long drive up I-75, and when I asked her what sound a frog made, she said ‘ribbit.’
What makes 717 South’s hanger steak one of your favorite dishes?
I’ve been coming here for 10 years. I love the way chef cooks his steak. And the vegetables are steamed and crispy, which is exactly how I like them. I have a lot of respect for Michael (Stewart). His restaurant is a very stable place. The quality of food is always very good. And his staff is always so outgoing and personable, and a lot of them have been here a long time. As a restaurant owner, you want that.
Hanger steak (with bacon and egg)
Fried organic egg, house-cured bacon, baby arugula with Gorgonzola vinaigrette, cilantro chimi churri and house-made white cheddar stone ground grits
Try it: 717 South, 717 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606 // (813) 250-1661 // www.717South.com