Sanford Restaurant

Pickkled RadishesROQUE


Sandy D’Amato grew up in Milwaukee, where his father and grandfather operated a grocery store for nearly 80 years. He attended the Culinary Institute of America where he studied under Chef Peter Von Erp. Shortly thereafter he became the first American cook at Le Veau d’Or and worked under Chef Roland Chenus through the groundbreaking opening of Le Chantilly. D’Amato returned to Milwaukee and made his mark as the chef at John Byron’s restaurant in the First Wisconsin Center.

In 1989, D’Amato and his wife, Angie, opened Sanford Restaurant in the building that formerly housed the family grocery store at 1547 N. Jackson St. The restaurant quickly became regarded as one of the best in the Midwest, earning accolades from Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Esquire, Wine Spectator, Zagat Guide, AAA and Best Chef: Midwest from the James Beard Foundation. D’Amato has cooked for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, was one of 12 chefs chosen by Julia Child herself to cook for her 80th birthday celebration and was chosen to cook for the Dalai Lama in 2007.

In December of 2012 Sandy and Angie sold Sanford to their longtime Chef De Cuisine Justin Aprahamian. He and wife Sarah, who was also a long time employee of Sanford, continue to run the restaurant with the friends they have been working side by side with for years. They embrace the traditions that have been laid before them and are excited to continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.


It is the philosophy of Sanford Restaurant to start with the finest possible ingredients, coming from as close to home as possible, supporting local farms and artisans whenever possible. We then treat those ingredients with the utmost respect, coaxing and elevating the natural flavor to the highest possible level.

Our inspiration starts with the seasonal bounty of produce. As Sandy always said when fresh tomatoes are here we will use them, when they are done we will wait until next year. Embracing what each season will bring, we then take great care in the development of the menu.

Our food, in large part, is described as Modern Ethnic. We like to take taste profiles and food traditions from the world over and integrate them into modern dishes. Exploring these traditions became a great passion of Justin’s when he started to explore his own Armenian heritage and family recipes, which are often included in the daily menu.

As important as the food is to our vision, the service and comfort of our guests plays an equally important part. We want our guests to feel comfortable, as if they have been invited into our home. We strive to be attentive but not intrusive and to always anticipate our guests’ needs. Over the last twenty plus years Sandy and Angie’s travels and experiences around the world have helped to shape the service at Sanford. Our goal is to continue these methods to ensure that each person leaves Sanford having had an outstanding dining experience.


Justin Aprahamian – Chef/Owner

Justin Aprahamian entered the culinary world at the age of 12 helping out with his uncle’s catering company. What started as small family favors ended up being the beginning of Justin’s intrigue to the culinary field. At the age of 16 Justin applied for work at the chef owned and operated, Steven Wades Café. Wanting to learn all aspects of a kitchen he accepted a job as dishwasher and worked his way up to garde manger. During his time at Wades, Justin graduated high school and immediately enrolled in the culinary program at Waukesha County Technical College.

At the age of 18 Justin’s eagerness and determination earned him an associate’s degree in May of 2002. At this time he joined the kitchen staff at Sanford Restaurant, then owned by renowned Chef Sanford D’Amato and his wife Angie. Hired as a prep cook, his drive and passion helped him to move up the line and by 2005 was promoted to Sous Chef.

After working closely with Sandy on recipe and menu development as well as the daily function, he was named Chef de Cuisine in 2008. In 2010 and 2011 Justin was honored as a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef from the James Beard Foundation. In 2011 and 2012 he also received nominations for Best Chef Midwest. In December of 2012 Justin purchased Sanford Restaurant from his mentors, the D’Amato’s.  He had kept a number of the Sanford “staples” as well as implemented a few of his own inspirations.  One major addition was the extended beer list, including a seasonal selection which changes with the seasons and a cellar list of hand-picked beers he has been aging for several years. In 2013 and 2014 Justin was again nominated for Best Chef Midwest and in May of 2014 he was honored with the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Midwest.

Brian Reed – Pastry Chef

Jeffrey Zastrow – Dining Room Manager

Anne Torinus – Assistant Dining Room Manager

Sarah Aprahamian – General Manager