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.