Interview With Antonia Lofaso

(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.

28 Days of Food & Drinks

Get ready for 28 new flavors to add to your foodie bucket list!

The number 28 was originally inspired by a blog documenting my Golden Birthday Adventure. This number transitioned into an entire series on how to live life to the fullest. After Springing to Action comes a more concise post about my true passion- FOOD! They say don’t go shopping when you’re hungry, so I’ll advise the same warning: Do not read the below on an empty stomach.


Strollo’s Lighthouse is a soft serve Italian ice spot with several locations in New Jersey. As with any experience, I went to ‘the original’ in Long Branch. All the flavors were tempting but I went for the Strawberry, Pistachio & Peanut Butter combo!

Myself & friend at Strollo's
Myself & Friend at Strollo’s


American Whiskey is a whiskey aficionado’s dream! A New York Sour or Old Fashioned done right, there’s no messing around here- you’ll be tempted to drink yourself back to college days. To [slightly] sober up eat their classic burger or butcher steak. Simple in design, memorable in flavor.

Vauxhall, in Huntington, had the largest warm pretzel I had ever seen. With Ale Mustard Cheddar Dip and Espelette House Mustard (just enough spice!) the entire thing was gone in minutes. I paired that with their original Vauxhall Stout (GUINNESS, VANILLA VODKA, SAIL AWAY COLD BREW), a sure fire way to ensure a returning customer!

Verde Kitchen in Bayshore’s town is great for some quality T&T- taco’s and tequila! Pulpo taco and Pomegranate Margarita were the top favorites (so many options, so short a lunch break).

The Lake House, also in Bay Shore but on the water, provided a Roasted Berkshire Pork Chop worth salivating over. Green Apple, Yam, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Gratin, Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette, Cranberry Mostarda- it’s fall freshness in your mouth (though, technically I had it in summer).

Bay Kitchen, in East Hampton, though closed until May 2018, had a $1 oyster happy hour. Right on the water, the shells were ripe for the picking.

Serafina’s location in East Hampton was a popular spot for a Saturday night. I’d been to the locations in NYC but this was a first. The ALLA NORCINA & 4 STAGIONI personalized size pizza pies were perfecto!

Caliente, an inaugural Hamptons event to benefit Long Island Cares, The Harry Chapin Food Bank and OLA of Eastern Long Island, was an evening of delectables!

Montauk Yacht Club’s Coast Kitchen served up a seaworthy cioppino! For the full review of my entire meal read here.

Cioppino at Montauk Yacht Club


Estias Sag Harbor is a quaint local spot right off the Bridge-Sag Turnpike. Freshness you almost wouldn’t believe (if you haven’t been yet). You’ll likely see the owner Colin Ambrose around as well- who can take the best Instagram food photo?

Estia’s Cole Combo


SagTown Coffee reopened this summer 2017 after months of renovation. The newly inventive draft latte made with cold brew espresso is nothing short of a caffeinated miracle. Read more about the reopening, along with other caffeine spots, here.

SagTown Coffee with owner Shane Dyckman


Cowfish in Hampton Bay’s has a great outdoor bar aside from a lofty inside. The iron skillet cookie is every bit of sugary sweetness one could ask for.

Isola  is a fresh take on an old space in the Historic District of Shelter Island. Every dish tied into the next in a distinctive flow of flavors. Read my full review here.

With Isola Owner Brad Kitkowski & Chef Seth Nathan

Over to Jackson Wyoming….

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is the quintessential bar in Jackson, Wyoming. Technically, I didn’t eat here and drinking at that elevation (6,200FT) with acute altitude sickness was ill-advised. However, I’m adding it to the list because it’s an absolute must-see in town!

Cowboy Coffee, a few steps away and sticking to the theme, has a list of food items with suitable names to lure in tourists (it worked for me). Try the Cow Puncher of turkey, cheddar cheese, red peppers, banana peppers, lettuce and mayo on their outside deck as you people watch. Don’t forget a cup of coffee!

The Outside of Cowboy Coffee


Picnic and Persephone are two individualized coffeehouses I wanted to group together because of their unique personalities. Picnic is more of a locals spot whereas Persephone is in the main town. Grab some coffee, a pastry or a light lunch and take in what the area has to offer. Picnic also serves alcohol, best of both worlds.

Coffee & Breakfast Bread from Picnic


Bin22 is a tapas bar in the back of what appears to be just a wine store. After you’ve navigated through the endless bottles, sit outdoors and try the housepulled mozzarella or grilled snake river wagyu steak- you will thank me. I’m hungry just remembering it!

The Housepulled Mozzarella at Bin22


Chicken Fry benefiting the Wilson Fire Department. It’s an entire fundraiser [hosted by the fire fighters themselves] revolved around frying chicken in the woods. Tin garbage cans filled with the stuff. Dozens of them. Add in some ‘sloshies’ to the mix (a heavily infused alcoholic slushie that apparently I never knew about here on the East Coast) and you’ve got a good ol’ country time!

Buckets of Fried Chicken at the Chicken Fry


Back home to the North Fork….

Little Creek Oysters paired with Greenport Harbor Brewery, a delicious combination. I shucked my first oyster at this little establishment on the docks, hidden in the back with Bait & Tackle written above. Every week they feature an original Greenport Brew (O.G.). My personal favorite (after visiting the 2nd brewery location in Peconic) was the Black Duck Porter beer. For a full review on the pairing read here.

Oysters and Brews at Little Creek


Claudio’s in Greenport holds title as the oldest single-family run restaurant in the United States. Go for the lobster, anything else seems uncharacteristic. Thirsty? Try the Sangria or Prohibition Lemonade.

My Father With His Lobster at Claudios


Bruce & Son is situated for ideal people watching in town. Sad to say, the deliciousness I consumed no longer seems to be on the menu- Duck Hash- duck leg confit, potato, shallot, frisée, chive blossom, citrus, fried duck egg & toast. Hopefully it makes a reappearance!

Duck Hash at Bruce & Sons


Noah’s is a culinary masterpiece on the North Fork. Its farm to table restaurant boasts unique savories such as Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash Bottoms and Crescent Farm Duck BBQ (the polenta cheese, mmmmmm). Keep an eye out for Noah’s on the Go- a food truck with its own dishes (loaded steak fries, just say yes).

Loaded Fries From Noahs On The Road Chef Justin Schwartz

Luncharitos for some East End T&T! Shrimp taco’s, strawberry margaritas. Enough said.

Taco’s from Luncharitos


Industry Standard switches up the menu constantly, so it’s hard to make a suggestion if it’s not on the menu a week later. That in mind, go for the atmosphere, the revolving flavors and a bartender that mentally transports you to the East Village.

The Giving Room is both yoga studio and health center in Southold. Their juices are guaranteed to give you the immunity boost you need- plus they’re delicious! Check out more here.

The Giving Room Juices With Owner Paula DiDonato


North Fork Roasting Company gives another kind of boost- caffeine- and only steps away from The Giving Room. While all of their drinks prove better than any Starbucks, their breakfast Waffle Egg Sammy is a home run hit. And make sure to say hello to the resident dog, Sinatra, who’s on most of the NoFoRoCo gear.

Iced Chai & Waffle Sammy from NoFoRoCo


Love Lane Kitchen on Love Lane in Mattituck is the perfect breakfast nook (but they serve lunch & dinner too). For people watching, for a local feel and for filling plates. I’d recommend a meal but let’s go with the generic ‘gotta try them all.’


That’s the roundup of my Summer of Food. May your bellies be full and your taste buds satisfied.

Until next time [check back for 28 Reasons to FALL]- In Omnia Paratus!

A Joyful Gathering

A meal is much more than food on a plate, it’s an experience of the senses. The tastes of a rich wine, the tantalizing aroma of freshly prepared ingredients, the visually distinct surroundings, the chatter of good company and the satisfying feeling of placing your hands on your stomach after the final bite. Mmmmmm!


Jody LoMenzo understands this concept as she curates a dining experience of delicious detail. Her company, A Joyful Gathering, brings people together over individually crafted plates of food.

“I’ve always been a firm believer in bringing people together around a table. Enjoying a meal, enjoying the company, and creating a joyful gathering,” LoMenzo explained how she came up with the name of her latest business venture.

Upon moving to Virginia 28 years ago LoMenzo, a noted media professional, started to turn a hobby into a side business. With a full-time career and raising a daughter, preparing dinner for others in peoples personal homes became a creative outlet that was well received.


“Friends asked me to cook and to do their parties. I love entertaining, it’s a natural passion,” LoMenzo reminisced about growing up in Bellmore, a town on the south shore of Nassau County, with a family that had a love for food and Sunday dinners. “It’s my way of giving people an opportunity to take a break, breathe the air, sip the wine.”

Now, she has returned to her home grown roots on Long Island to serve the Hamptons community effortless entertaining directly in their homes.

“I’m not a caterer in the sense I don’t do large scale, mass produced food. I am making food prepared to the menu, to the host’s wishes with my suggestions,” LoMenzo stated.

The relaxed lifestyle of the Hamptons, whether it’s full time or a weekend escape, brings to mind a sense of serenity. Like anywhere else, the idea of unpacking groceries and entertaining guests after a long work day brings additional stress. Between the deer, the darkness and the drinks, driving after an evening out can become treacherous. A Joyful Gathering fixes all of these issues in the most splendid way.

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LoMenzo buys the groceries, cooks, serves and cleans, all directly in a clients home, a full circle service. She enjoys interacting with guests by making an appetizer or dessert together. She even offers cooking classes!


“One time I brought homemade pastry and the group of people helped peel, slice and cut apples into bowls with cinnamon and sugar, flour and spices. Groups of two paired off to make their own apple tarts for dessert. It was interesting the different shapes and sizes, it even turned into a funny competition.”

More than just personalized cooking, A Joyful Gathering includes an option for wine pairings. LoMenzo works with local wine merchants to taste the local grapes that compliment her dishes. She is also offering her services as an auction item at fund raising events. Her recent auction at Southampton Animal Shelter’s Spay-ghetti Dinner was a raving success!

Jody LoMenzo with me at Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Spay-ghetti Dinner on 2/23

Preparing food is an art form of the senses. However you choose to “come to the table and break bread” let it be ‘a joyful gathering.’ Cheers!

A Joyful Gathering is available solely on the east end right now, primarily on the South Fork. Brunch and dinner services are competitive to a restaurant, approximately $30-$50 a person depending on the ingredients used. In efforts to maximize the experience, buffet services are offered for 20 people or less, sit down meals for 10, and food and wine pairings a capacity of 12. All bookings must be made 10 days in advance.

Email Jody for more at

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