A young couple puts their own spin on the well-known FIN Restaurant in Dennis and brings influences from around the world to the Cape.
In the center of quiet Dennis Village sits an antique home. From the outside, it simply looks like a well-kept abode of years past, with a simple sign hanging out front announcing itself to the world as FIN. But inside, chic, minimalist décor with local artists’ work hanging on the walls and warm light, keys visitors into the fresh and exciting menu crafted by owner and head chef Mike Scarduzio.
The name may sound familiar; FIN is not a new restaurant, rather, Mike and his fiancé Kallie Maxim purchased the restaurant from the previous owner in 2019. While they are new owners of the restaurant, Mike and Kallie are both no strangers to the business. Kallie has worked in restaurants for as long as she can remember, and after attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Mike spent four years working in New York City under Michelin starred chefs, training in mainly French cuisine, and also a stint at a sushi restaurant in Union Square. The two then traveled to Europe, where Mike spent some time working and training in Copenhagen. “Kallie and I have worked in restaurants pretty much our whole lives and we traveled the world looking for food for inspiration for our menu,” Mike says. From Boston to New York to Europe to Asia, Mike’s time spent in various kitchens is evident on the menu at FIN. While the Asian influences are clear, with dishes such as the seared yellowfin tuna with Yakisoba noodles, fiddle heads and a carrot ginger sauce, the scallop sashimi with roasted maitake mushrooms and pickled ramps, and the yellowfin tuna tartar with avocado, yuzu soy, wasabi and lotus root chips, Mike and Kallie aimed to make FIN a blend of their experiences and the Cape Cod community. “The menu we came up with is based off what people really like to eat around here and what I was trained in, a blend of the two. You want to please the guests, while also keeping it fun and doing what it is you want to do. There’s a fine line,” explains Mike.
When it came time to move on from New York City, Cape Cod seemed to be a natural choice. Mike, originally from Central Massachusetts, he and his family spent summers on the Cape, and Kallie is a local, hailing from Bourne. On the Cape, Kallie and Mike are surrounded by friends and family, a built-in support system that they didn’t have in the city. But more than that, they feel at home. “Growing up, I would go clamming and oystering with my dad and we’d come back from the beach and cook amazing meals,” Mike reminisces. “Those are the kinds of memories I have from growing up visiting the Cape, cooking fresh seafood, so there’s a sense of home here.” And that fresh seafood was another deciding factor in choosing Cape Cod. “The seafood that comes out of Cape Cod is some of the best in the world and in New York City, all the seafood was coming from the Cape,” explains Mike. “So, I thought ‘why not go to the source to open the restaurant?’ It’ll be a lot fresher too!”
Once the location was decided, it was a matter of finding a place. “We wanted a small place that was a little more upscale. We didn’t want to start from scratch; we were looking for an established restaurant because we’re young and this is our first restaurant,” Kallie says. “We actually worked for the previous owner for about two months as a transition period prior to taking over to see if it was a good fit, to meet the clientele, and to see if Mike’s food would work well here. And it was a perfect fit.” Mike set out to create a menu of his own but wanted to honor the restaurant that came before. The previous iteration of FIN was seafood focused, much as it is now, but the influences came mainly from French and Asian cuisine. “It was difficult at first; we took a step back and asked ourselves, ‘Okay what do we really want to do here?’” says Mike. “We took some of the staples on the menu, like her oyster chowder and tuna tartar, and we revamped them. We just wanted it to be a new FIN.” And though their is a new chef at the helm, fans of the old FIN will not feel out of place, thanks to Mike’s continued use of proteins like scallops, tuna and swordfish. Mike’s application of what he has learned over the years is like any good recipe; it is a point of inspiration, a jumping off point that is influenced by fresh ingredients at hand, along with a dollop of creativity. It is less of a plan and much more of an experience, with a menu that has been honed down, with a focus on quality over quantity.
That commitment is evident in Mike’s off-season tasting menu. When the tide turns from the busy summer months to the quieter, cooler autumn, Mike and his team have the time once again to offer an eight-course tasting menu to guests, in addition to their normal á la carte menu. The tasting menu changes every night, depending on what ingredients Mike has available. Reccurring dishes have included Waygu Beef and FIN’s in-house, 23-day dry aged duck. Wine pairings are also offered with the menu. While it’s an option Mike would love to offer guests year-round, kitchen staffing makes it difficult to maintain in the summer season. For now, it will remain a special treat for those who live in the area year-round or make the trek to Dennis Village in the off-season.
Access to the freshest possible seafood is certainly a draw for most chefs on the Cape, and at FIN, Mike strives to make the most of it. “It’s all about keeping up with the trends. As a couple taking over a restaurant at 25, it was a little crazy, but we really knew from our training the trends and ingredients people weren’t using down here but were being used in New York,” says Mike. “Every morning when I was a sous chef in the city, I would go to the farmers’ market and get all the ingredients and adapt the menu as the day went on. I would get to use cool new ingredients.” Mike has brought that adaptive spirit to the Cape and employs it regularly, not just in his tasting menu. “Mike is constantly changing the menu according to the seasons or the fresh ingredients that we get in daily,” Kallie explains. “Whenever people come in, whether they’re regulars or coming in for the first time, there’s always something new on the menu and I think that excites people.”
While embracing the atmosphere and delicacies of the area, Mike and Kallie also hope to bring a bit of the New York flair they picked up to the Cape. “Working in New York City, you get the best of the best. It’s very high end, which I want to keep here at FIN,” says Mike. “That’s something we wanted to bring to the Cape; the focus on fine dining and really doing chef-focused food. I brought the high standards of the kitchens I was trained in to FIN. And the tasting menu we do in the off-season is something I was trained in, and I love doing that to really showcase the menu. It’s fun for us.” The restaurant has truly become a unique blend of the couple’s training and the community that they’re now a part of. “A lot of people who come down in the summer come from New York, so they get really excited to find a restaurant like this. We are in an old, antique home, which you won’t find in New York City, but I think Mike’s food is up to the standards of the city,” Kallie elaborates.
As the world, and the Cape, start to get back to normal, it’s time to indulge. And there’s no better place to do so than FIN. With the freshest, highest quality ingredients used to make unique yet accessible dishes, Chef Mike Scarduzio has created a menu that perfectly blends his worldly training with local seafood. And together with fiancée Kallie, has put his own spin on an established Cape classic.
Elizabeth Shaw is the Senior Editor and Digital Editor at Cape Cod Life Publications.