As David Spagnuolo whirls around the kitchen in the King's Corner restaurant at Legacy Golf Club, it is evident he is part artist and part scientist.
Just don't call him chef.
"I consider myself a cook," Spagnuolo said as he flattened a ball of pizza dough on the counter in front of him. "I'm a graduate of the school of hard knocks. And I still feel I can learn something every day."
Spagnuolo, 49, spread the dough out and worked it with his hands. It wasn't evident at that point that the dough was worked expertly. That wouldn't be evident until the pizza emerged from the oven.
He continued talking about the important qualities of dough, including water hydration, with the scientist in him coming out. He then noted, as commonly heard, that the water in Florida is different than the water in New England.
Could Spagnuolo toss the dough high into the air?
He twisted his face into a frustrated look, considering the audacity of such a question. Ten seconds later, the dough was spinning into a disc about his head.
It most likely would be hard to teach Spagnuolo something about pizza, or especially about pizza dough.
Both his father, Ken Spagnuolo, and grandfather, Bill Spagnuolo, made their livings in the bakery business in Boston and David Spagnuolo followed that tradition, owning his own bakeries with his wife, Stacey.
Eventually, David and Stacey moved to New Hampshire, and they owed several small, intimate restaurants. David Spagnuolo noted that owning restaurants can be a blessing. It also can be a "nightmare."
Five years ago, they decided to move to Palmer Ranch in Sarasota.
He dabbled in a few projects, and then last November was hired to turn Legacy's restaurant into a profitable venture. He wanted to be back in the pizza business without necessarily owning the restaurant. The Legacy project seemed a perfect fit.
Whether it is a perfect fit will come to light over the next few years. The Legacy Golf Club itself has been a huge reclamation project driven by owners Kevin Paschall and Jon Whittemore.
The Arnold Palmer-designed course opened in 1997 to excessive fanfare, as helicopters delivered celebrities to play the new gem. Over the years, though, with multiple owners, the course fell into disrepair.
Paschall and Whittemore bought the club for $3.4 million in November 2015 and poured more than $2 million into the course in their first four years. Of course, then it was 2019 and the pandemic was about to take hold in 2020.
Still, the owners kept moving forward until the course reclaimed the status it formerly held. They decided it was time to examine the food operation.
In December 2020, Paschall and Whittemore invested in "the Lamborghini of pizza ovens," a Marana, and talked about increasing food sales. However, after an unsatisfactory two years, the owners searched for a chef — make that cook — to bring everything together.
Paschall said Spagnuolo is the right man.
"Dave's skills are going to expand our lunch and dinner choices," Paschall said. "Our presentation is better."
Paschall said about 30% of their restaurant business is the non-golfing community. He wants that to be closer to 50%.
"We are not just going after golfers," Paschall said. "When you go to most sports bars, your view is a parking lot. Here, you can enjoy the ambiance of the natural beauty here. That is different."
The restaurant can seat 120 to 130 guests and with the Waterside area growing with both homes and other restaurant choices, Paschall and Whittemore want to tap the market.
Those who want to try the fare at Legacy should know that the club is outside the Country Club gates, easily accessible from University Parkway.
Paschall said since Spagnuolo came aboard business has "ebbed and flowed," but they have yet to market the new menu.
"We are burgers and pizza, but there is a lot in-between," he said. "We need to get the information out there. We feel now it is ready and right."
Spagnuolo is excited about being part of the effort.
"I have refound my passion here," he said. "They wanted a change. We have taken some products already here and mixed and matched them in different ways."
He had never worked with a Marana oven, but that has been enjoyable as well.
"I came here and I had never seen anything like it," he said of the rotary pizza oven. "It spins. It is odd, but helpful."
He said those who have enjoyed the restaurant in the past will still be able to order the popular items. Items that weren't selling have been eliminated.
Spagnuolo has a tried-and-true formula when it comes to deciding what to put on a menu.
"I like good flavor," he said with a laugh. "I taste my food before I serve it."
The restaurant is open 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Paschall said if business calls for it, those hours might be expanded.
Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.