On the Line: Giovanni Roman of Roman Cucina, Part One

Sitting across from Giovanni Roman outside a coffeehouse along Harbor Boulevard, you wouldn't suspect he cooked for a living–until we brought up the topic of pasta. Our humbled chef talked off the cuff about his brother (and business partner) David, his favorite places to eat, and the customer request he didn't like.

What are six words that describe your food?
Great, homemade, simple, unpretentious, Italian food.

What are eight words that describe you?
Easygoing, optimistic, yet pessimistic [laughs], hopeful, blessed, joyful.

Your best recent food find:
I just found Japanese eggplant at the grocery store, and I love it.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Salt and pepper [Editor's Note: See the “best culinary tip for the home cook” response.]

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Follow the rules, but also have a good time; you should not hate your job.

One food you detest.
I don't love bell peppers, personally. It has to do with the texture. My mom used to say I wasn't a real Italian.

One food you can't live without:
Pasta is very tasty and has so many options as to what can be done with it.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Sushi and Mexican food!!!

What fast food do you admit to eating:
Del Taco. I love the fries and chicken soft tacos.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Salt and pepper are the ingredients most people miss when their recipe is bland.

After-work hangout:
My couch — I work nights.

Favorite celebrity chef:
Fabio Viviani makes everything very simple, and he has a fun time doing it.

Celebrity chef who should shut up.
None. They are great chefs, and they are usually phenomenal at what they do. So when it comes to food, you should listen.

Favorite music to cook by:
I like jazz — Marc Antoine is great. Also, trance DJ Chicane. But I listen to Larry Elder mostly. [Laughs]

Best food city in America:
I think we have it very good right here, but maybe Las Vegas, otherwise. The city has such a great atmosphere.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Greek food.

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Less Italian restaurants, from a business standpoint.

Favorite cookbooks:
I Google everything.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Gym, basketball, girlfriend, family, church, government paperwork.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Deep-fried everything at the OC Fair.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Salami and eggs, over medium.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Gluten-free pastas. I'm trying to find the best one.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Someone requested their food to be phallic-shaped. We're a family restaurant, so I refused.

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