ELLENTON -- There's nothing like a hot dog and beer at a baseball game -- or so thought figure skater Michael Chau.
Then he discovered the side-splitting wieners produced by Rippers Roadstand in Ellenton.
"These are deep-fried. Their skins are rippled. They have a different texture and they taste different than you're used to," says Chau, who spends his days on the ice rink in Ellenton. "These are just crispy, really juicy. The toppings are great, and the bread is to die for!"
Chau has become a daily customer since Rippers had its soft opening this week at the establishment owned by the Gio Brothers Restaurant Group at 5967 Factory Shops Blvd. The new restaurant serves a classic Jersey dog "fried until ripped and bursting with flavor." This week's most popular toppings are bacon and caramelized onions.
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Another favorite is the "Barking Pig Dog," which features "Jersey bacon kraut," says John Gio, 45, who owns Rippers along with his brothers Nicholas, 43, and the twins Anthony and Carmen, 41.
Rippers offers all toppings free, ranging from mustard and ketchup to grilled mushrooms and jalapeno peppers. Sides in
clude "Disco Fries" with gravy and mozzarella cheese or Jersey bacon kraut. "We keep the toppings free and the prices low," the eldest Gio says.
Customers can buy a Ripper Dog for $2.95, while the most expensive bacon cheeseburger costs $4.95.
"It's a Rippers roadstand. It has a warm industrial feeling, although we do have outdoor seating. It's fast casual," says Gio. "We have a stampede floor and industrial metal, lots of wood slats. The counter tops and tables are hand made. One of my younger brothers is a master carpenter, self-taught."
The decor matches the food's appeal.
"I don't think anyone knew what to expect besides quality," Chau said. "It was decorated with industrial decor, designed immaculately and the food is superb. The vibe is fantastic. When you finish eating, you can sit there and enjoy the atmosphere."
What's special about the Ripper dog has to do with the way it's cooked.
"It's deep-fried in peanut oil. That's very well known in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut," Gio says. "We deep fry the dog until it bursts. That's what it does in the fryer. It sinks to the bottom, rises to the top, then bursts."
With Rippers, the brothers now own five Suncoast restaurants in the Gio Brothers Restaurant Group.
"We just wanted to open up a hot dog and burger place all along, but my youngest brother started doing pizza in Sarasota. Then more and more opened up in terms of catering," Gio said. "We just did it as a hobby all our lives. Mom and Dad both worked and entertained all our lives, and when they needed help, we did it."
Selling hot dogs was an idea dating back to their childhoods in Hoboken, N.J.
"It's where we learned the business," Gio says. "Our family were coat contractors in the garment industry and we used to sell hot dogs when we were 10-, 12- and 8-year-olds." The family moved to Florida in 1992.
The other Gio Brothers Restaurants are Gio Fabulous at 4805 Cortez Road, 7240 55th Ave. E, 2219 60th Ave. E, Ellenton, and Joia Fabulous in Riverview/Brandon.
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 7024 or tweet @DeeGrahamBH