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Bogartz brings a taste of Tuscany to West Knoxville

Bruce Bogartz says he’s hoping that the folks in East Tennessee “taste a little bit of Tuscany this summer.”

Bogartz, owner of Bogartz restaurant in the Shops at Homberg Place, invites Knoxville to visit his refurbished Tuscany-inspired restaurant and make it their new, favorite place to eat and indeed have a taste of Tuscany.

“This place has a great feel,” Bogartz said. “It’s comfortable, it has ambience. You could put this restaurant in any city anywhere and it would do well.”

Bogartz, who was born in Knoxville and attended Webb School of Knoxville, has garnered a vast array of experience that he said has inspired his individual flair.

After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, Bogartz decided that he wanted to try a culinary school. He enrolled and graduated from Philadelphia Restaurant School and worked at various restaurants in the Philadelphia area before moving to Aspen, Colo.

“I wanted to work in a ski town before settling down, and I happened to get the job of a lifetime,” he said.

Bogartz was the chef for Warner Brothers Record Company in Aspen for six years. “It was great; lavish parties, private jets,” he said. “I worked seven months out of the year and got paid for twelve.”

Bogartz was a chef for Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson for a few weeks and says that he got the feel of what it would be like to be a personal chef.

After the job in Colorado ended, Bogartz came back to Knoxville for a visit and was set up on a date with his future wife, Cynthia. The couple now has a four-year-old daughter, Sarah Beth, whom he calls the “epicenter of their lives.”

“It is a little difficult owning a restaurant and missing out on time with family,” he said. “There is a definite pull drawing me home.”

Bogartz also worked for Regas restaurants and participated in the opening of Harry’s on Kingston Pike.

He worked for Home and Garden Television and did some kitchen consulting work among other jobs before opening this restaurant.

Bogartz has been in business in Homberg Place for a little more than three years. He has acquired space next door and after a great deal of reconstruction and redecorating, Bogartz has achieved the atmosphere that “Chef Bruce” said he has always desired.

The menu at the restaurant changes about two times a month, depending on the season and on Bogartz’ mood.

“I would go crazy cooking the same things over and over,” he said. “I need to be creative.”

At the time of a menu change, Bogartz brings his servers into the restaurant before it opens and he prepares the entrée menu and a sampling of desserts. He gives a full description of each entrée, detailing spices and additional flavoring and upon completion of the presentation, the wait staff samples all of the dishes.

Restaurant manager Leslie Kennedy said, “This way, when a customer asks for a recommendation, the servers know exactly what to say, because they have tasted everything on the menu.”

Some of the items on the summer menu include a Tuscan pork tenderloin; grilled breast of duck and a pistachio crusted mountain trout.

“We make everything ourselves and use the finest ingredients,” said Bogartz.

Bogartz said that he likes the fact that his restaurant has a comfortable, neighborhood feel to it. “I’m a boutique kind of guy,” said Bogartz. “I wish that I could just share a meal with my customers, enjoy their company and not have to charge them anything, but unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way.”

“We have many repeat customers at the restaurant and we get to know several by name,” said Kennedy.

Bogartz has artwork on display, on loan from a neighborhood art gallery, which Kennedy said adds to the “ambiance of the restaurant.”

Chef Bogartz will be featured in the February 2005 issue of Southern Living magazine and is slotted to write a food column for Metro Pulse. He was named Cityview magazine’s chef of the year for 2003.

Bogartz also caters private parties and weddings. The restaurant’s hours are from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are accepted.

Kennedy said, “Customers should come as they are as long as they come hungry.”

To make a reservation, or for more information, call 865-602-3583.

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