Why he became a chef. "Ever since I was four years old, since I could remember anything, all I wanted to do was cook. When my mom realized I was serious, when I was about eight, she brought me into the kitchen whenever anything was happening—pickling, preserving, baking. Growing up in my family, every single person was a food snob. It's ridiculous. My family has a house in Italy; the second I get there, my cousins will call and say, 'We've got these clams, we're coming over.' I'll say, please, please—I'm on vacation."
Most memorable cooking experience. "During the 2004 Democratic National Convention everybody was here. We had Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and the Farrelly brothers upstairs and the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing in the restaurant's parking lot. But every time that I cook at home, with my family, I always say to myself, that was great.'"
Biggest influence. His mother. "She's the best cook in the world. When I'd come home from clubbing at 2 a.m., first she'd yell at me, then she'd start cooking. I never ever came home from school when there wasn't something on top of the stove wrapped in foil—stuffed peppers, pigs feet, polenta pie."