A little over 20 years ago, Steve Martorano -- number seven on our Tastemaker countdown -- was on his way back up north. His dreams of opening a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale didn't work out and the cook (he doesn't like the word chef) was at the airport, waiting for a flight to Philadelphia. Then, as if in the movies, a call to a friend turned his fate around.
A small storefront in a shopping center in a slightly-seedy section of the beach was for sale. "I drove my car, I got out, I looked in the window. This is for me. If I didn't make that call, my entire life would be different," Martorano told Clean Plate Charlie.
From that point on, things started looking up for the muscular restaurateur with a positive attitude toward life and an old-school way of cooking. On a Saturday night, expect to wait hours for a table at his flagship, Cafe Martorano. His other restaurants, at the Seminole Hard Rock and the Rio in Las Vegas, are equally busy. What's the secret? People flock as much to meet Martorano as to dine on his famous meatballs. And he doesn't disappoint -- stepping away from the burners to schmooze or to spin tunes (he acts as his own DJ when the mood strikes).More »