For nearly 40 years, he managed a wide variety of restaurants, mostly for hotel chains.
In 2014, he found himself between jobs. Rather than work for another company, and with the support of his family, he decided to take a risk.
“We thought, ‘Let’s just break the piggy bank and open our own restaurant,’” Perez said. “That’s how we did this. It’s been a busy eight years.”
Perez’s wife, Heather, helps run the business side of the company while their son and daughter both work in the restaurant.
With plenty of Italian restaurants in the surrounding area, Perez said he knew Apollonia’s needed to stand out. He decided to create a menu split into three categories to make his eatery different.
What he came up with is a mix of authentic Italian and New Jersey-style Italian dishes with custom items that he creates himself.
The pork ragu spread over a pappardelle pasta and the house-smoked salmon pasta with lobster cream and brussel sprouts are some custom dishes he said patrons will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Perez said the farfalle alla vodka pasta with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and a vodka cream sauce is a traditional favorite among customers.
Nearly as important as the Italian-style dishes, Perez said, is the wine.
“You want to know what region [of Italy] the wine comes from,” Perez said. “The food from that region, most of the time, is going to pair well with that wine. They have been making wine for thousands of years, so they know what it should go with.”
Once a month, Apollonia’s hosts a wine and dinner tasting event where patrons can pay a flat fee to experience a variety of wine and food pairings. The next tasting event will be Dec. 16 and will feature California wines with select whiskey pairings, Perez said.
Most importantly, Perez said, Apollonia’s is a neighborhood restaurant where most customers end up becoming regulars.
“We try to keep it friendly and family-oriented,” he said. “We know everybody’s kids and whose mom is doing what and what’s going on [at school]. ... It’s crazy but fun.”
Apollonia’s Italian Kitchen
3610 Shire Blvd., Ste. 108, Richardson
469-209-0500 | www.apolloniasitaliankitchen.com
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 4-9 p.m.