Italian eatery planned at former Photon site

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Plans are underway for The Tuscan Table Ristorante to open this summer in the old Photon Automation building at 275 Center St. in Greenfield. Behind the venture is Tony Lepore, a mechanical engineering technician at Photon and a chef who trained at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale who grew up eating his family’s authentic Italian food.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD – When Tony Lepore came to work as a mechanical engineering technician for Photon Automation a few years ago, it didn’t take long for the company to notice his other talents as a trained chef.

Soon he was using his culinary skills and Italian roots to prepare meals for employees in the commercial kitchen at the business’ former building.

Eventually he and the company’s leader got to talking about opening a supper club at the site, setting in motion a plan for The Tuscan Table Ristorante to open this summer.

“All homemade pastas, ravioli, everything that I grew up on as a child from my grandmother and my mother for my whole life – it’s the type of food that I want to bring to the people of Greenfield,” Lepore said.

Photon Automation, an advanced manufacturing company that tackles projects from laser welding to electric vehicle batteries, moved from 275 Center St. to a bigger building at 501 W. New Road in recent years. The company still owns the Center Street property, which has a commercial kitchen from when it previously housed the local American Legion post.

Lepore said he is arranging for inspections as well as city approvals and has been outfitting the kitchen with equipment he needs.

He said the venue’s dining area will have an Italian farmhouse theme.

“We want it nice and warm,” he said.

Lepore plans to start off by opening a couple weekends a month with a dining room able to seat about 35 people.

“Till we start getting our feet wet and all the kinks worked out in the kitchen and dining room of course,” he added.

The property also has a large gathering space that Lepore plans to make available for special events.

Driven by his lifelong love of cooking, at 32 Lepore decided to become a chef and studied at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

“Ever since I did that, I’ve been wanting so much to do something with food,” he said. “And people, because mainly I want to share it, and I love to turn people on to really good food and see their reactions and how they enjoy it and bring in something new that they haven’t had before that they really enjoy.”

Lepore has fond memories of his Italian roots and his grandmother making fresh pasta every Sunday for big family meals.

“That’s the way that I grew up,” he said.

After Florida, Lepore lived in Iowa before coming to work for Photon Automation, where he has been for about three years working under the leadership of CEO Bill Huffman.

“He’s a real foodie, he loves to cook, and he loves food and we hit it off right away,” Lepore said of Huffman.

After the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, the company wanted to start doing employee lunches again, and Huffman asked Lepore if he would be interested.

“And of course he totally was,” Huffman said. “He and Tracey, his wife, make a great partnership and they both put the meal together for the Photon crew. Everybody loved it, and I said to Tony, ‘We’ve got to do this more.’”

The company didn’t know what it would do with its Center Street property, and eventually Huffman asked Lepore if he would be interested in starting a supper club and event center.

“I took the opportunity and we started moving on it this year,” Lepore said.

Huffman said Lepore is a very talented chef.

“He makes everything from scratch – pasta from scratch, marinara sauce – he doesn’t use anything from the jar or the can,” Huffman said.

Huffman added he has tried numerous dishes Lepore has experimented with in the kitchen, including a gelato recently.

“I’m telling you what – it’ll change your life when you have that,” Huffman said.

Lepore’s recipe book is packed with authenticity, Huffman continued.

“It’s true, real, Italian old school recipes,” Huffman said. “He’s using that as kind of a baseline for a lot of the dishes that he prepares.”

But he is also implementing tweaks here and there to make them more comfortable for a Midwestern American palette, Huffman added.

“This is an experiment, a project,” he said. “I don’t know how far it’s going to go. In no case do I want to lose him as an employee at Photon – he’s that good – but I think he can strike a balance between what we do at Photon and this new venture.”