The Pines' Angelo Romano: "If You Want to Make Whatever You Want, Throw a Dinner Party"
The Pines chef Angelo Romano had no intention of learning about cooking, but the knowledge was instilled in him anyway. The Florida native grew up with an Italian mother and grandmother who spent their days in the kitchen. "I was going to school with caponata sandwich or pig's foot rigatoni in a Ziploc," he recalls. "I was learning by exposure, and sometimes that's better."
As an adult, Romano first dabbled in advertising, ultimately giving it up because he realized he didn't want to sell things he didn't believe in. He followed a friend to San Francisco for a couple of years, where he "regrouped, snacked a lot, and went to Tartine and ate baguette all the time."
When he resurfaced, he headed to the Culinary Institute of America and then came out to New York, where he first landed a job at a catering kitchen. "I was working with eight grown men who hated food and cooking," he recalls. "I realized I never wanted to cater a 600-person party."
He made a swift exit and took a position at Lupa, where he spent a considerable amount of time. Eventually, though, he got bored. "At that volume, food loses a lot of passion," he explains. "That's just the way it is. There are people cooking your food--it's not robots."
So he jumped ship, and after spending some time on the line at Roberta's, he opened Masten Lake in Williamsburg. When that project went south just seven months after it debuted, Romano learned about the danger of working with the wrong investors, and he meditated on bringing in the right people for another project. He found them: "The people I found, we have a marriage," he says. "I could see us working together for a long time. They believe in me despite our arguments. They embrace what we do, and they stood behind every decision I made."
And with their support, he put together the Pines in Gowanus, an ambitious seasonally focused project that he opened in fall 2012.
In our interview, Romano weighs in on running his kitchen like a pirate ship, cooking with emotion, and his passionate hatred of okra.
Up next, Romano talks about running his kitchen like a pirate ship.