Florida native Angelo Romano’s food-centric, Italian-American upbringing gave this chef a logical first step into the kitchen. Learning to cook with family and traveling across Europe as a child, from an early age, Romano began to develop an understanding of flavors and how they interact.
From budding food lover to culinary student, Romano solidified his commitment to the kitchen with courses at the Culinary Institute of America, and with an intense work ethic and love he dived into the New York restaurant scene. Romano honed his own skills at Manhattan’s Lupo Osteria Romana before decamping to Brooklyn, where he helped develop the food at Roberta’s for more than two years. He then ran the kitchen at the late Masten Lake.
In September 2012, Romano spearhead his current outpost—The Pines. Tucked inside the sturdy footprint of Gowanus’s industrial neighborhood, The Pines blends Italian inspiration with purposefully chosen Asian ingredients (not to mention rap music on the loudspeaker) to yield comfort food, especially pasta, that’s spiked with attitude. Romano is cooking what he loves—with fire—and the results are electrified with New York excitement and streaked with Brooklyn verve.
Why: I dig how they are rebuilding the Rockaways.
About: Smallwater is a grassroots disaster relief initiative aimed at rebuilding the Rockaways community after Hurricane Sandy.
Interview with Chef Angelo Romano of The Pines – New York, NY
Dan Catinella: What inspired you to cook professionally?
Angelo Romano: It was a natural progression for an Italian American. It was second nature. Nonna was always cooking, and I would spend a lot of time in the kitchen with her. I traveled a lot as a kid and was always drawn to food.
DC: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
AR: I don’t think it’s necessary. Take every last dime for going to school and travel and eat. The nature of the industry is based on work ethic and love. That's what matters.
DC: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
AR: Find someone that does things you really like and you have something in common with. Draw from that and make it your own.
DC: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
AR: We’re all over the place. We support Small Water, the Rockaway Relief Fund. We try to work with small local farms. There are starving farms and starving farmers all over the world. We do monthly events. This month is Mothers for Gun Control and after that we are doing anti-fracking.
DC: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
AR: The way we are creating the restaurant now is I'm trying to make it exciting and challenging but make people leave comforted. Maybe its unfamiliar flavors, but at the end of the day we want you to listen to hip hop and eat pasta.
DC: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
AR: Location, but location is a saving grace that allows me to do whatever we want. It’s kind of bittersweet. It’s a commitment to walk here but at the same time it’s opening a lot of doors. The demographic is responding so well to the food that it’s totally worth it.
DC: Which person in history would you most like to cook for? What would you serve?
AR: Lil Wayne—I would definitely do a Pig’s Foot Ragu or Ants on a Log with dehydrated peanut butter and tapioca starch.
DC: What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?
AR: Sustaining this restaurant as long as it has and getting the feedback. I wear boat shoes and no socks … and make great food with amazing people.
DC: What’s next?
AR: I want to continue to open spaces. We just built out our backyard for yakitori and kind of funky stuff. I’m trying to open a pasta shop or a bread shop.