Executive Chef and Owner, Tommy Lasagna
About the Chef
Chef Tommy opened his first restaurant in a college town in Atlanta, Georgia. After a few years, he moved back to New York to attend culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education. He then opened a fine dining restaurant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, which he enjoyed, but his heart was always with Italian food and pasta. The idea of opening a restaurant based around a classic lasagna with bolognese sauce was just the right fit. Tommy Lasagna, named after Chef Tommy, opened up in Manhattan’s Flatiron District about two and half years ago and has been serving homemade lasagna and fresh pastas ever since.
Tommy Lasagna: 119 East 18th Street (between Irving Place and Park Avenue South)
Chef Tommy Mosera outside of Tommy Lasagna
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Brooklyn and moved to Staten Island when I was seven years old.
What did you enjoy eating most as a kid?
Every Sunday, my family went to my grandmother’s house for dinner. It was huge dinner with a ridiculous amount of food, starting off with antipasto and things like that. At some point, my grandmother started frying veal cutlets and my grandfather was on the barbecue making lemon chicken. Dinner would start at 2pm, and at 9pm, we were still eating! At the end of the night, my grandmother would bring out the cold cuts so that we could make sandwiches. Today, we all look back and laugh because we can’t figure out how we were ever able to eat all of that food! (Laughing) Sunday dinners in particular are some of the most vivid memories that I have of my childhood. Another dish that I loved was something that my mother used to make at home: pork chops with red sauce and white gigante beans. It was a really special dish for us.
At the moment, what is your favorite ingredient and what do you like to make with it?
Right now, ramps are in abundance so we’re starting to work with them. There’s such a short time frame to use them, so we need to take advantage of it! One of the dishes we’re making is rigatoni with ramps, fava beans, a little bit of chicken stock, and sun dried tomatoes. I also love grilled ramps with a little olive oil – nice and simple.
What kitchen items are important for a home cook to own?
I think the most important appliance for a home cook is a KitchenAid mixer. It’s so versatile – you can bake with it and you can use it for savory dishes, too. There are so many attachments that you can get, including awesome pasta attachments that allow you to make all different types of pastas at home. It’s so useful!
If your food were music, what music style(s) would it be and why?
I would say classic rock. I love classic Italian dishes, but I like to put my own spin on things. People consider Tommy Lasagna an old school Italian joint with a modern twist. I also love to have classic rock playing while I’m here at the restaurant!
Where are your favorite places to travel for the cuisine?
My last trip was in the Caribbean – my wife and I went to the Bahamas for our honeymoon. We got to try all of these little kiosks on the beach that had such fresh seafood. It was great! Before opening the restaurant, I went to Italy for three weeks and traveled around to seven different cities for inspiration. It was so helpful for me to see what they’re doing in Italy and how it compares to what we’re doing here in New York. My favorite cities were Florence and Milan – the food was incredible! Capri was also amazing. I was there for three days and really had a chance to relax. When I get the opportunity to travel again, I would love to go to France and Spain.
If you had not gone the culinary route, what would you have done instead?
There was a time when I took a break from cooking and got involved in real estate. Not just selling real estate, but actually building houses. We went into low income areas and rebuilt dilapidated houses. I’ve always been passionate about creating and building – whether it be a dish or a house.
Which chef do you admire most right now?
I always go back to my Italian roots. What Mario Batali has done for the food industry is incredible. You go into his restaurants and there is just something so special about what he does. I sometimes walk through Eataly just to get inspired. I really admire everything that he has done.
When you get a chance to dine out, where do you like to go?
When I go to Staten Island, there is a Spanish restaurant called Espana Royale that I really enjoy. They make great Sangria out of dried fruits – it’s delicious. The food is also creative and inventive. I have a few favorite Italian restaurants in Staten Island, including one called Bocelli. I actually don’t spend much time in the city since I live in New Jersey. Whenever I’m in the mood for good Italian, I go to Staten Island!
If you had to give up one of the five food groups (Bread & Potatoes; Milk & Dairy; Meat & Fish; Fat & Sugar; Fruits & Vegetables) and could not eat anything from that group for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
Being “Tommy Lasagna”, I can’t give up bread and potatoes, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do what I do! (Laughing) I would say sugar, but it’s including in the same group as fat, so that’s out. Looks like I would have to give up fruit and vegetables! It’s a bit unhealthy, but whatever. I’m willing to make the sacrifice! (Laughing)