What is your first food memory?
Roasted potatoes made by my grandma Adelia, or spending the summers to cook tomato sauce with my aunt, uncle, mom and grandparents.
What is your favorite home cooked meal?
When my mom is cooking eggplant parmigiana, stuffed artichokes, spaghetti, agile, olio, acciughe, breadcrumbs. From my dad, baccala mantecato.
What was a typical meal for you growing up in Italy?
Eggplant cooked and pickled, mozzarella di buffalo and pasta.
Do you have any advice for people who are learning to cook on their own?
Just taste a lot and try everything, you can to make it better.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Vegetables, hummus, cheese, eggs, and lately I'm into kimchi.
Is there an ingredient that you use often that would surprise people?
I use garlic oil in most of the dishes that I make. People are very surprised when they realize that something that I made is really good by just adding extra virgin olive oil and garlic, salt and pepper. The key is to keep it simple.
Do you have any cooking tips for people that are trying to impress their date?
Make something simple that you know will be good and blow their mind and heart.
Besides LaRina (obviously!) do you have a favorite restaurant in NYC?
I have few favorite restaurants, I think you always have a favorite restaurant for a different mood or a different situation. I just found out about this place in LES that serves amazing Vietnamese called Hanoi House, great for hot summers or winter with their pho.
I'm sure a lot of people recognize you from Top Chef, what was one thing you learned during that experience that made you a better chef?
I learned a lot on how to be very focused on your goal and keep doing it even if the road is harder, I mean probably I have some new tricks from that road now after that experience.
Was there anyone or anything that inspired you to become a chef?
My grandma inspired me to be a cook, to be happy and to make people feel a sense of nourishment as she was always doing with me and my family to keep all of us together.