"I was surrounded by great food growing up. My mom is an amazing Italian cook and a huge influence. By the time I was 14, I was braising meat and helping her prepare epic Sunday dinners for our family of eight. I still love the charm of rustic comfort food."

When did you get serious about cooking, and what was your main inspiration?

I was surrounded by great food growing up. My mom is an amazing Italian cook and a huge influence. By the time I was 14, I was braising meat and helping her prepare epicSunday dinners for our family of eight. I still love the charm of rustic comfort food.

If not cheffing, what might you be doing?

Does having a taco hut on a beach with my wife count as cheffing?

Any big plans for the new year?

Lots - we (Flatiron) are retooling the menu, doing collaborations with some of my favorite local chefs, and (hosting) more events like the recent beer dinner we did with Seventh Son Brewing.

Favorites

Local restaurants: Harvest Pizza and Kitchen - its Geary St. pizza with fresh clams is amazing! Acre in Clintonville. The Table. G. Michael's. And I'm thrilled to see my former sous chef Julian Menaged doing great things for The Crest and The Market Italian Village. Although it's not a restaurant, Thurn's Meats is great. Al Thurn and crew crank out some of the best sausages and cured meats I have ever tasted.

Pig-out food: I'm from Boston, so franks and beans always puts a wicked huge smile on my face.

Pizza: I love walking into Yellow Brick Pizza and seeing (owner/artist Bobby Silver) Bob's new amazing chalk drawing while enjoying a Rhode Island Red pie. But having Adriatico's delivered to my buddy's garage while listening to Neil Young can't be beat.

Food trucks: The truck at Las Maravillas Mexican grocery store on King Ave. is killing it with tongue, brains, you name it! And the wings from Aromaku melt in your mouth.

Cheap eats: Little Palace chicken or meatball sandwiches. Los Guachos for al pastor tacos.

Music to listen to while you cook or eat: We usually have the Minutemen or Firehose on in the kitchen. While dealing with huge hunks of meat, nothing gets the job done like Iron Maiden. In the dining room it gets eclectic.

Food movie: "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." The dedication, discipline, precision and pure love he puts into his food is amazing and inspiring.

Thing to eat while drinking: A good charcuterie plate.

Cocktails/beer: Buffalo Trace on the rocks. Seventh Son Wuffles. Campari a la Steve Zissou.