(This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Luxury Living Magazine- a subdivision of Newsday Media Group)
Celebrity Chef & Restauranteur Profile: Antonia Lofaso
TV Celebrity Chef, author and mother, Chef Antonia Lofaso is a restauranteur with an expanding empire on the rise.
Growing up food was ubiquitous in Antonia Lofaso’s life. From a family with a zeal for cooking to working side jobs in the industry, being in restaurants came naturally. However, making a career from her passion didn’t seem logical. It wasn’t until meeting her late husband, Heavy D, that working as a chef transformed into a reality.
It took ten years of skill development, including graduation from the French Culinary Institute, before Lofaso became an executive chef at SBE’s restaurant, Foxtail, (now closed). At the time, Lofaso admits, she didn’t know what she was doing and constantly questioned whether people would gravitate towards her opinion on food.
“Opening a restaurant is about a feeling. There’s a reason restauranteurs tend to be some of the most eccentric people you’ll meet in your life. We’re weird and crazy! There’s no real formula to it. You either have it or you don’t.”
While approaching a dish, Lofaso contemplates the message she wants to convey. She is a storyteller that utilizes ingredients rather than words and plates instead of books.
Black Market Liquor Bar, located in L.A.’s Studio City, reads a menu of things to crave; BBQ short ribs, spicy Korean chicken wings, meatballs, dill potato chips, deep fried fluffer-nutter, amongst more.
“I think menus tell a story and through that story there’s an experience… It should be delicious, it should be well executed and it should be what people crave.”
Lofaso moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was eleven years old but her Long Island roots have influenced her culinary creations with the opening of her American Italian restaurant Scopa in Los Angeles.
Scopa Italian Roots, a restaurant about Italian heritage, reveals orders such as cold seafood salad, rice ball, meatball hero, stuffed shells and spumoni. Each mouthful reminiscent of her childhood. Lofaso recalls, from a prior work experience, her father once referring to a plate as ‘cold cuts.’ At the time she took it offensively.
“In L.A. no one knows what cold cuts are, they say cured meats or charcuterie, the fancier end of it.” But over time she has come to embrace the terminology for the memory it evokes. “The name is what bred the concept [of Scopa]. People will think it’s funny or it’s a story that servers get to explain to customers about where I grew up.”
Lofaso, like many who grew up in the Long Island suburbs, recalls the mixed American-Italian culture that is a rarity to find elsewhere. The local deli, the Italian restaurant on the corner, the large plates of antipasti that seemingly could feed a small village.
“I still have that memory, that feeling, that smell.” she expresses the uniqueness of where she grew up.
“What I miss about Long Island is the sense of community. Everywhere you go and everywhere you live…they’re very loyal to one another, you take care of each other.”
Lofaso success wasn’t instant, despite her televised appearances on shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and top chef, and experience working at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. After her executive chef position at Foxtail closed within the year she fell into a state of depression, questioning her career path. Lee Hefter, her mentor which she gained through Wolfgang Puck, encouraged her to keep pushing forward.
“He’d say, ‘Antonia, restaurants open and restaurants close. Get over it.’ It’s so interesting how everything shifts…My biggest thing is about the recovery. Always. There’s more failure, and I’ve learned more through my failure than my success.”
On the rise as a restauranteur, 2017 is the year for her new line of cook wear, Chefletics. With a website launch in 2016, Chefletics was inspired by the streets of L.A. and Lofaso’s love for Crossfit to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to Chefdry, the technology behind the brand, she has created a line resembling athletic wear. “That’s what chef’s were already buying to wear in the kitchen, so I just made something that was made for chefs.”
In a single word, Chef Antonia Lofaso would describe herself as consistent. As a tasteful storyteller, mother and businesswoman.