Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘Food gives me a way to express myself.’

David Buico, Huntington Station

“I started cooking at a very young age. My mom passed away in a car accident when I was 11. I was in the car with her. Cooking kept me busy and kept me positive when I was feeling lost. Then I fell in love with it. I started hanging out with my grandmother in Brooklyn. She taught me how to make her classic spaghetti pomodoro, a simple dish that’s still one of my favorites. I fell in love with food, and it kept me out of trouble and gave me a voice.

“I was an executive chef for over 30 years in New York City. To be a great chef, to be running the restaurant business, you need a lot of passion. I love seeing the expressions on people’s faces when they bite into something.

“Food gives me a way to express myself. Cooking food brings a family together, and that was something that was always big in my family before I lost my mom. I guess that’s why I love food so much, because it reminds me of a happier time.

My grandmother was the inspiration behind Mercato Cucina, which means ‘market kitchen’ in Italian.

“I worked my way up to where I am today, but in busy restaurants, the hours are long and you miss out on a lot of your own family birthdays and holidays. COVID made the business much more difficult. I’m in my 40s and have a family, and I started to think, What am I going to do with my life? I came across this location and kind of pivoted to my childhood.

“Sundays were my grandmother’s shopping days, and my three siblings and I were sent to at least five different stores to get only the best bread, meat, cheeses, produce, pastries, pastas, cold cuts. What I came to understand years later as I began my journey in the culinary world is the importance of fresh, quality ingredients.

“My grandmother was the inspiration behind Mercato Cucina, which means ‘market kitchen’ in Italian. My wife pushed me to open up the location. I put a chef’s dream and everything into one little spot. I have this tiny marketplace with all the specialty products and everything I love to cook with and love to eat. We do catering. We have gourmet coffee, olive oil, pasta, and we make these whimsical sandwiches with Brooklyn names like the Belt Parkway. It just took off. If I had a choice to do it all over again as a chef I would, but I’m enjoying this new experience and where it might take me.”

Interviewed by Liza Burby