Known for providing Italian hospitality and Provençal charm, MAMO opened last year to immediate acclaim. The SoHo outpost of a French Riviera favorite, MAMO has attracted a lot of A-Listers, including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Samuel L. Jackson, Nina Dobrev, and Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. Not surprisingly, MAMO has been covered by Page Six, People, Architectural Digest and the New York Times, only receiving favorable press.
Massimo Sola, Executive Chef for MAMO, received a Michelin star almost a decade ago. Prior to his work with MAMO, he worked with Eataly Roma and Ristorante Quattro Mori. Massimo — who has also appeared on plenty of television cooking segments — caught up with Downtown about life as a chef at a top New York City restaurant. He opened up about gluten-free cooking with our Q&A and also admitted where he personally would go for a meal out.
MAMO is open for dinner seven days a week, for lunch on weekdays, and for brunch on weekends. For more information on the restaurant, click on over to www.mamonyc.com and/or follow the eatery on Twitter via @MAMO_NYC.
How would you describe your restaurant to someone who has not yet been there?
Massimo Sola: MAMO is a beautiful restaurant. Dynamic, young, vibrant yet elegant and sophisticated. We offer authentic Italian cuisine with a distinctive dash of simplicity and quality.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
MS: Risotto With Ossobuco is definitely my favorite. It is a tribute to Milan, the city I grew up in. The texture of the meat together with its sourness makes it a unique experience bite after bite.
What about on your new pre-fixe lunch menu? Is there a favorite for you?
MS: I would say that really depends on my mood. On one of those really hot New York days, I can’t wait to sit down and enjoy a Come A Capri Salad with a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. After a nice long morning run, I like to reward myself with Spaghetti All’Amatriciana, and when I feel guilty because I couldn’t find the time to run, my choice goes on the Filetto Di Orata Alla Griglia.
When it comes to creating new dishes, where does your inspiration usually come from?
MS: It comes from a variety of things: nature’s colors, emotions, flavors…
Do you have a dish that you’ve created that you’re most proud of?
MS: Back in Italy many years ago in my old restaurant, Quattro Mori, I created a Risotto With Shrimp. Both its execution and presentation were sophisticated and elaborated, but the harmony among the ingredients was so balanced and clear you could identify each and every one of them.
What was your first job in the restaurant or hospitality industry?
MS: It all started when I was 16 years old and I got a summer job as a dishwasher in a small French restaurant in Switzerland. I kept looking at the chefs instead of the dishes I had to wash!
Was there a particular person or experience that inspired you to be a chef?
MS: Well, my grandma had a restaurant and I come from a pretty big family, so I grew up watching my mom cooking tirelessly every single day — holidays included — and I remember the joy that her food brought to our faces. The joy of being with the people you care about while eating good food.
My generation didn’t have dedicated cooking channels, social media or pictures, so it all started with the purest love for cooking that grew bigger year after year.
Is there a movie or book that you feel best encapsulates what it is like to be a chef?
MS: The Perfectionist: Life And Death In Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminski, who tells the story of legendary Master Chef Bernard Loiseau.
When not busy with the restaurant, how do you like to spend your free time?
MS: I love to walk all over the city. New York is an amazing and vibrant place to live in; there is always something new and unique to do. When I have more time, I like to drive outside the city for a little getaway and enjoy the hospitality of small towns and the variety of different scenarios that nature has to offer.
Do you have a favorite part of Manhattan to hang out in?
MS: I like the Financial District, where I live. So busy during the week and almost empty during the week end. Perfect combo!
Other than your own, do you have a favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
MS: I really like Match 65 on the Upper East Side. Flavia and Philippe, the owners, are excellent hosts and their Coq Au Vin is delicious.
Finally, Massimo, what do you wish more people knew about you?
MS: I am the proud father of two amazing kids, Giorgia and Alessandro. They both suffer from Celiac Disease and cannot taste a lot of my dishes because of that. Cooking for them is one of the things I like to do the most, so I am constantly working to find new recipes and perfect old ones, to make pasta, lasagna or pizza dough so delicious no one would think they are gluten-free.