On the Line: Alessandro Pirozzi of Mare Culinary Lounge, Part Two
Photo by LP Hastings
Serving three square meals a day, every day, Mare Culinary lounge not only includes a lounge, but a nightclub on weekends. Open from 7 a.m. to midnight, try to find the same hours for a comparable menu in Laguna. You can't. We continue with a superstitious discussion and more examples of how Alessandro can't sit still.
Read our interview with Alessandro Pirozzi of Mare Culinary Lounge, Part One.
And now, on to Part Two . . . .
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
I am always doing special projects. I jump from fixing, cleaning, organization, improvements, thinking about new ingredients, etc. I live and breathe the restaurant. My life is the restaurant. I don't do anything else in my life that is not related to it. I can be home with my wife watching TV, and my brain is on, thinking about the special for tomorrow.
Favorite music to listen to:
I like jazz because it relaxes me. I like California contemporary, like The Wave. I like the personality behind the music.
I was born in Naples. Went in the Navy when I was 16, and traveled the world. I was supposed to go to the Cayman Islands, but my visa was rejected. I came here on vacation to visit a friend, and I actually never left.
What was it like growing up the youngest *and* the only boy?
I think it was easy because in Italy (Southern Italy, especially) the boy has priority. I was a Mama's boy. When I would cry, my mom would take me away and give me something nice. I call my mom every single day, even if it's for one or two minutes.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
I set my expectations too high for everyone to reach. I compare everyone to me. Because I work so hard, everybody can do better. There's no such thing as doing too much. You can always do more. I wish the day would be longer, and I wish I didn't have to sleep. I was always hyper as a kid. The teacher would call my mom every day, because I would drive everyone crazy. I could not sit still. For the first few years, I wouldn't even sit in the chair. I would have so much anxiety.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
When I was growing up, we would build things. We would go around and find old armoires or cabinets, take the doors off, get pieces from mechanics that they would throw away, and attach a broom to both sides. Then we'd find a steep place, hop inside, and use the brooms to maneuver as we slid down. We used to make treehouses with my cousin. We also built bonfires from the things we destroyed and wrapped potatoes to put in the ashes to bake.
Are you superstitious? If so, about what?
I am majorly superstitious. I will never go under a ladder. If a black cat crosses in front of me, if I have to back up 1,000 miles, I will back up 1,000 miles. I have horseshoes hanging. I put salt in the corners. I do everything in threes. Southern Italians are superstitious, and I have an Asian wife, who is also superstitious; so combined together, we have a million times that we believe. I also hide good luck charms. Underneath Cucina Alessa in Newport Beach, when we poured the concrete, I have all kinds of things buried in there for good luck and to keep the bad eyes away.
What were you up to five years ago?
I was running a 12-unit restaurant chain from a San Francisco-based company (Pasta Pomodoro). There were 600 employees under my watch. It was a lot of work.
Last book you read or last movie watched; how was it?
The last book I read was when I was seven or eight years old; It was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I only read the first three pages, the three pages in the middle, and the last three pages. I tried to imagine what the story was about. When the teacher asked me, and I told her what I knew about it, she said to me, "You just read the beginning, middle, and the end." I asked her how she knew, and she replied, "I haven't met many smart boys like you, but I met some in my career." The last movie I watched was Titanic.
Last thing you looked up/searched online:
I Google a LOT of stuff. It's the best. The last thing I researched was how to take apart an air conditioner system on the roof. I called this guy, and he wants to charge me too much. I do a lot of my own home maintenance. If it were up to me, I would fix everything on my own. I think when you do something yourself, you do it better.
Do you have any skills that are non-food related? What are they?
I like to improve things more than I like to fix. Like the guy that invented Sensa. I have a million ideas. One time I bought a pasta machine, and it was just poorly designed. I gave a design to my uncle, who gave it to an engineer in Italy. They actually took the information and improved upon it.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I would definitely be a pilot. I have a pilot license, and I like to be in the air.
And what's the tattoo on your arm?
It's the Italian Navy. I was on the diver team on the submarine base, and this was my group. And this (twists arm) is of Vietnam. My wife has Italy on her arm. Instead of names, we do countries. And the two countries look similar, too.
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