Tell me a little bit about Paola’s.The restaurant is 32 years old. It started as a small 10-table, 30-seat restaurant on 1st Ave and 85th. We’ve progressively, slowly been moving over. This is our fourth location, and as of 9 years ago we’ve been here at 92nd and Madison.
Our food is regional Italian—we do lots of homemade pastas and our mozzarella is made from the curd. We source most of our ingredients from farms and use a lot of sustainable resources.
What are some of the signature dishes here?As you explore the menu region by region, you’re going to find some dishes from the south, for example, like cavatelli with broccoli and sausage. But some of our most popular dishes are our traditional Roman Jewish artichokes and the bucatini.
How did you get started in the culinary world?I come from a family of musicians. My grandfather played violin, and came here from Italy to play at the Met. We’ve always been interested in music, art, and food, and felt that this was a natural progression into doing something we love: working with food, people, wine, and music.
So my uncle opened a restaurant at 65 Irving Place. I would go behind the bar and squeeze oranges for the drinks. I went from doing that, to doing dishes and doing whatever was available and necessary to be a part of something—whether it was showing up on the weekends or staying late.
I’ve been here at Paola’s for 30 years, and started full time 25 years ago.
Paola’s is participating in The Art of Food this year. Are you into the art world at all?Yes, of course. My grandmother was a painter by hobby and a sculptor. So art is something we naturally appreciate. My children love art, and are aspiring artists and musicians.
What is your number one cooking tip?Love, and then safety. It’s all connected. Whatever comes from the heart.