Interview by Anthony Scillia
Q: Who are some of your Italian culinary inspirations?
A: First and foremost, my grandmother; she was from Benevento and I’m still inspired by her food as well as her old world hospitality. Lidia Bastianich is another strong matriarch; she represents everything that’s right with all things Italian. She is a business woman, a mother and true inspiration. Larry Ruvo has become a good friend over the years, who has motivated and encouraged me and I appreciate him as a person and his continual philanthropy... he is a great man.
Q: What drew you to Italian cuisine in the first place?
A: My family background, of course. Also when I first started to cook Italian food, I was only familiar with one aspect of it. I found that the more experience I acquired and the more knowledge I obtained, I really saw the multiple ingredients and flavor profiles used in Italian Cuisine from its various regions. I was immediately attracted to that.
Q: Is there one traditional dish of Italian cuisine that was most "inspiring" for you and why?
A: Spaghetti aglio’olio e alici—spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, anchovies and parsley. This dish is the foundation of pasta cooking and it’s one of my favorite pasta dishes. This dish done well can be a complete epiphany.
Q: What is your concept of authenticity in terms of Italian cuisine and how important is it for the marketing of your restaurant?
A: I don’t pretend to cook authentic Italian cuisine. However, I think there are certain principles of Italian Cuisine that need to be adhered to in order to deliver on the expectations of a great meal. The intention at the restaurants is always to adhere to those principles, keep the staff educated, and continually pursue quality whenever possible.
Q: How do you see the future of Italian cuisine outside of Italy?
A: I think Italian Cuisine has never been as popular as it is today. Hopefully as it grows in popularity, some of the common misconceptions will be left behind.
355 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10014