Gator Nation News

Trading Courtroom for Kitchen

He gave up lawyering to command one of Gainesville’s most beloved restaurants. Here, Chef Andy Fass shares one of the recipes that has won over locals and luminaries.

Gator Chef, an exclusive video series, showcases delicious recipes full of flavor and heritage served up by outstanding UF alumni chefs and passionate home cooks. To see Episode 1, featuring Chef Edouardo Jordan, please visit https://www.uff.ufl.edu/gatornation/gator-chef-cooking-edouardo-jordan/.

Chef: Andy Fass, a master of Italian cooking, a double Gator (Class of ’98 and Law ’01) and a member of the Gator Marching Band for the 1996 National Championship

Raised in Hollywood, Florida, Andy Fass earned a bachelor’s in political science from UF and a juris doctorate from the Levin College of Law before settling down to what he loves most: cooking. After studying at the New England Culinary Institute, where he trained in la cucina italiana, Fass worked as a chef at Italian restaurants in New Orleans and Asheville before returning to Gainesville in 2007 to take over Amelia’s Restaurant, by the Hippodrome Theatre.

With its longstanding tradition of serving classic Italian food, Amelia’s (established in 1985) was the perfect fit for Fass. In the 13 years since he bought the restaurant, Fass has tweaked its menu to feature seasonal items from local growers and fishermen – fresh chanterelles, grouper, Cedar Key clams – earning a TripAdvisor 2020 Travelers’ Choice Award for his eatery’s stellar food and “lovely, relaxing atmosphere.”

Among the celebrities who have feasted at Amelia’s are Joaquin Phoenix, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Vince Gilligan (creator of “Breaking Bad”), as well as Steve Spurrier and countless Gator athletes and coaches.

But one celebrity diner stands out. Carol Burnett, who dined at Amelia’s before speaking at the Phillips Center in August 2009, was “humble and down to earth” and treated Fass and his staff like she was a regular, he said.

“I remember she had chicken marsala and commented how delicious it was, but I don’t remember much else,” Fass admitted. “I was a little star-struck.”

Regulars, though, are the heart and soul of his business, Fass said, whether they come for weekly dinners, first dates or special events. Diners celebrating a birthday can enjoy an unusual treat: Chef’s rendition of “Happy Birthday” played on his trusty alto sax, which he stores in the hallway (not in the pantry with the pasta flour and porcini mushrooms).

“I was a member of the Pride of the Sunshine for the 1996 National Championship,” he said, recalling the historic season when Spurrier and quarterback Danny Wuerffel led the Gators to victory in New Orleans over No. 1-ranked Florida State.

Given that Amelia’s has been around for 35 years, alumni often seek out his restaurant when they return to Gainesville for football games or milestone events.

“I’m elated we have a special place in their hearts,” said Fass. “We’ve had several UF parents who had their own graduation dinners at Amelia’s and are now having their kids’ graduation dinners here. It’s amazing!”

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Shrimp Amelia

This simple recipe takes only minutes to cook but is big on delicious flavor. Don’t overcook the shrimp, and be sure to save some of pasta cooking water to add to the final sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 4 oz reserved pasta water
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2-3 lemons, juiced
  • 4 leaves fresh basil
  • 12 oz large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 4 oz linguini, cooked
  • fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)
Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it starts to turn clear.
  2. Add garlic slices and brown for 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. Deglaze pan with white wine and reduce liquid by half (about 30 seconds).
  4. Add pasta water, butter, salt, pepper, paprika, lemon juice and shrimp.
  5. Cover pan and steam for 2 minutes until shrimp are almost fully cooked, about 2 minutes. (Alternately, you can turn the heat to low and cook for 1 minute uncovered.)
  6. Add basil and remove cooked shrimp from pan; reserve on a plate.
  7. Toss linguini in sauce and divide on two plates. Top with shrimp and garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired.

Visit Amelia’s Restaurant online to check out menus and more cooking videos at https://ameliasgainsville.com