We sat down with Salvatore Lamboglia at his New York City hotspot, Bar Primi, and whipped up his award-winning Rigatoni alla Norma. We got the scoop on Sal's culinary background, the life of a chef, and a few of his guilty pleasures...
What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
My entire life revolves around food and it has always been that way. My dad was a chef for 35 plus years and most everyone in my family cooks. Watching my parents, aunts and uncles throw down every Sunday inspired me to cook professionally.
What, or who, would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
Watching my dad over the years definitely pushed me this direction. He always told me if I wanted to this as a career that I should go to school and find someone really well to work and connect with.
Describe your culinary style…
My style is Italian and usually pretty rustic. My parents were born and raised in Naples and its pretty similiar there. It's not complicated and its lots of things you want to eat constantly.
What would you say is the main focus/concept for your menu at Bar Primi?
Bar Primi is an Italian restaurant that happens to have 15 pastas on the menu. Pasta is one of the main focuses here but we offer so much more. There's something for everyone and we tend to accommodate for any off the menu requests.
What do you think makes a restaurant or menu successful?
A lot of details go into making a restaurant successful. Teamwork, hospitality, and communication are big for me outside of making a fresh and delicious product. I'm a stickler when it comes to guests perception and making sure that service is meeting people's expectations.
Favorite childhood dish?
My mom makes this Baked pasta with bolognese, ricotta, peas and breadcrumbs. She gets the crumbs and grated parm all crispy on top and the inside is super meaty and hot! It's FREAKING AMAZING!
What trends or changes in the NYC dining scene have you witnessed over recent years?
I see a lot of fast casual restaurants opening around the city these days which is getting more popular. Also noticing a lot of old school italian coming back into the scene.
What projects do you have lined up?
Right now its all about Bar Primi. A couple of things are brewing but nothing worth mentioning as of now.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Grilled cheese is my jam and I love peanut butter!
1 pound of dried rigatoni pasta
2 cans of san marzano crushed tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 Italian eggplant
handful of basil leaves
1/2 lb ricotta salata
1/2 lb grated parm
1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling on high. Peel and slice the garlic and red onion. Tear the basil leaves into bite-sized pieces. Trim and large dice the eggplant.
2. In a large pan, heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the eggplant; season with salt and pepper, and cook 2-3 minutes, or until golden on all sides, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and cook 1-2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute, stirring until fragrant and golden.
3. Add the red pepper flakes and crushed tomatoes to the eggplant in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the sauce 2-3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Stir in half the basil and ricotta salata. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. While the sauce simmers, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook 4- 5 minutes, or until al dente. Reserve a little cooking water before draining the pasta. Transfer the drained pasta directly to the pan with the sauce, tossing to coat. If the sauce seems too thick, you can add some cooking water to thin it out.
5. Serve and top with grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!