In its first week of business, Social on First has already stirred up quite a buzz in Sarasota due to its indoor/outdoor setup, Italian-American cuisine and emphasis on using fresh local ingredients in its food and handcrafted cocktails. Owners John Tassotti, Jason LeFrock and David Goldman say they wanted to create a space where friends could meet to enjoy good company in a relaxed, throwback atmosphere marked with vintage photographs, white subway tiles and plaid wallpaper. We bellied up to the bar with Tassotti and LeFrock to chat about their vision for the business, their dream customers and which cocktails they'd like to see banned forever.
Tell me about your backgrounds.
LeFrock: I was born in New York, but I grew up here. I left when I was 17, and I studied all over. I was an art major, and I also own an ad agency.
Tassotti: My family's been in the restaurant business for three generations, so I've worked in the industry for most of my life. I had a bar in Clearwater Beach 10 years ago, and Jason and I always wanted to do something here. The timing and the location were finally right.
What was your vision for Social?
LeFrock: We wanted to do something a little different in Sarasota, and bring some of that New York or Los Angeles vibe. We wanted to have a contemporary and rustic feel at the same time and a sort of loungey, casual atmosphere where people can come to eat, drink and socialize. The food is Italian-American comfort cuisine, which is what we grew up with.
Tassotti: We didn't want to feel like a night club or a restaurant trying to be a nightclub. We want to be a place where people can come after their shift to grab a bite, relax and be able to have a conversation. Hip and trendy are the first words that come to mind, from our decor to our menu and our liquor. We put a lot of thought into everything.
What was the inspiration for your menu and bar?
Tassotti: Well, like they say, the cocktail is back. Our bar and our cocktails tie into that '50s feel, with handcrafted cocktails using small-batch and sustainable liquors and wines. And our bartenders hand muddle the ingredients in front of the customers, which brings back that customer service aspect. The food plays off the name, Social; It's Italian-American staples, like pizza and pasta, and we've got lots sharing plates and meat boards. We try to keep everything organic, fresh and natural while not having outrageous prices.
LeFrock: We try to do the same thing with our liquors. Everything you'll see on our shelves is small-batch liquor or sustainable wines, which causes our bartenders to become more engaged with our customers looking for recommendations. Even our soda is out of a bottle, instead of a gun.
How would you describe Social to someone?
LeFrock: I think it's hip and sophisticated, and it's a place where you can go to just be with friends and socialize. You can have a large table to yourselves '” indoors or outdoors '” and you can make it your whole night. I think there's something for everyone here.
Now for some fun questions:
If you could make one cocktail disappear forever, what would it be?
Tassotti: Anything with Fireball whiskey. The hangover...
LeFrock: John had me try a scotch the other day, and it tasted like a hospital room. But, I'm not really a scotch guy. I'd also get rid of Goldschlager. It seems so high school.
If you could only serve one cocktail, what would it be?
Tassotti: A blueberry smash. It's a vodka mule with blueberries. It's so good, and it's really refreshing.
LeFrock: I'd serve a grapefruit old fashioned. I like bourbons and whiskeys, and the grapefruit is a nice twist on the original. The citrus adds to it.
Your dream celebrity customer walks into the bar. Who is it, and what do you serve them?
Tassotti: Brooklyn Decker. I'd serve her a lemon vanilla-bean martini. My other choice would be Al Pacino; I'd just have a glass of scotch with him.
LeFrock: My first choice would be Jennifer Aniston. I'd serve her whatever she wants, but if she made me pick, I'd serve her our lemon-vanilla bean martini. It seems to fit her personality. My other choice would be Adam Sandler, and he seems like an old fashioned kind of guy.
You can only eat one item off your menu for the rest of your life. What is it?
Tassotti: I'd have to pick one of our pizzas. I could eat pizza every day. I do, sometimes. I'd pick our No. 3, which is a spicier pizza.
LeFrock: I'd eat our pan-roasted chicken. It never gets old. I could eat that forever.
Describe Social using the title of a movie or television show.
Tassotti: I'd say Entourage, because it's hip and trendy, and it's where you can meet up with your friends.
LeFrock: I think our theme kind of fits in with Boardwalk Empire. Our old photos, handcrafted cocktails and overall concept have that vibe.
Social on First | 1219 First Street | 941-444-7072