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.

‘It’s been a hard journey. I used to work in fine dining in the city.’

Rockville Centre

“When I was a kid, I didn’t really know I was adopted, but I felt like I was. It was a gut feeling. I was always confused as to why my parents were both intellectual and why I hated school. Why am I not interested in anything they want to do? But then again, what kid is?

“My mom’s always been a great cook; she’s one of my biggest inspirations for this whole journey. My dad, too. My family is very food orientated. When I was really young, I had this exposure that kids my age had no idea about. When I was 5, I had caviar, escargot and mussel pots.

“My dad grew up old-school Italian. His parents were off the boat. They had their name changed at Ellis Island. He has some things he can make better than I can — spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli, eggplant parmesan, lasagna. These things his mother taught him to make as a kid. He makes them better than anyone else.

“My mom grew up in Ohio, which is like beef and potatoes. She really strived to get away from the Midwest. She has a PhD in speech pathology. She really wanted to open a restaurant, but one of her patients said, ‘You’re way too nice for this industry.’ I think I’m living out her dream in a way.

“It’s been a hard journey. I used to work in fine dining in the city. Then COVID happened, and I took a step back. My parents are older; my dad has cancer. I moved back in with my parents to take care of them. They’re happy to see me doing something I was passionate about. They’ve been extremely supportive. Every restaurant I’ve ever opened they were there every night. Now that they can’t come every night, I bring food home for them.

“When I was offered the opportunity to work at a pub, I was like, ‘I went to the Culinary Institute of America, worked at Westchester Country Club, worked at Le Bernardin the city. Now I’m going to make chicken wings?’ It has changed my life. It taught me how to have a better way of life. Instead of trying to burn yourself out and being afraid of messing up a dish because the chef will come after you, here I’m afraid of messing up a dish because the people that come in are family.”

Interviewed by Tracey Cheek