Rick Dion is no stranger to the hospitality arena. The owner of Wilton Wings— on Northeast 4th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, just on the outskirts of the Gayborhood—Dion worked at the Las Olas Café for almost a decade. When it came time to renew the lease, owner Paula Pace instead decided to open the Mason Jar on North Federal Highway.
“I chose to move along with Paula, because we had a great working relationship. I worked with Chef Ernesto Rand, who was the chef at Las Olas Café, for over 10 years. As a matter of fact, “Chef” is our chef at Wilton Wings.” Really? A wings joint with its own chef? “You wouldn’t think that a simple wings restaurant would have a chef,” Dion acknowledges. “But we are so proud to have him on staff.” The quality of the food reflects that hiring decision.
Dion describes the restaurant’s journey to ringing (winging?) reviews and raves. “When ‘Wings and Things’ on Wilton Drive closed, we purchased all of the owners’ recipes. We knew they had a terrific business, and we wanted to continue that tradition. I purchased the business in November 2011, and my entire goal has been to make money and to give back to a community that I love,” he adds.
Dion says that the food at Wilton Wings must stand out, something he is proud to have accomplished in less than a year. “I wanted to make sure that our wings were our signature, since it’s in our name. Without a doubt they are the best. And all of our sauces are homemade— fresh and never frozen.” For specials, the prices are as much a value as the portions.
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“We offer a half rack of ribs and wings for lunch for only $9.50,” Dion notes. “On Friday, we offer our Fish and Chips, which features an 8-ounce portion with homemade coleslaw and fries. Saturday, you will find me in the kitchen making homemade New England clam chowder,” he adds proudly. “We also feature fresh tuna and fresh tilapia—the only way it could be fresher is if I were on a boat and caught it myself.” After a momentary thought, he adds “I am way too busy to do that, although it sounds pretty good,” flashing a grin.
“One of the things that I am so proud of is our service. I am proud of all of my staff. They are dedicated. We grind our own hamburgers, and we always try to have as much on the menu that is homemade. Chef Ernesto really puts his heart and soul into every meal that we prepare,” Dion says.
About his hands-on style, “I am the sort of owner that you may find me bussing tables or helping to serve the food. It always makes me smile when I watch people come in and look at the Specials Board: Their eyes literally light up when they see something that they didn’t expect.”
For more information, visit wiltonwings.com, and stop in to Wilton Wings, at 1428 NE 4th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tell them you read about them in Florida Agenda. You won’t be disappointed.