Louis Lombardi Talks Pizza Strategies, Green Smoothies and Chow Fun in the Bronx
“I was brought up by a lot of women -- my mother, my grandmother, my aunts -- and almost every night, they would cook for five, ten people, whoever wanted to come over,” Louis Lombardi tells The Hollywood Reporter of learning how to eat, and cook, as a child in the Bronx. Swordfish and peppers, chicken parmesan, rigatoni with fresh ricotta, egg frittatas with potatoes and onions. “It wasn’t dishes that you had to be Emeril [Lagassi] to make. We would sit there for hours just talking; the camaraderie of the dinner table was almost like therapy for people. You felt better when you left that table.”
Upon moving to LA to jumpstart his acting career, the actor of The Sopranos, 24 and Entourage drew from his family-taught culinary knowledge to feed fellow up-and-comers like Michael Rappaport, Mike Starr and Leann Rimes, who “used to put it in the freezer and keep it for the week.” Set next to appear in Frank Darabont’s Mob City (premiering Dec. 4 on TNT), he recently launched Lombardi Gourmet, a line of Italy-imported artisan pastas, olives and infused olive oils, with sauces set to follow.
LOUIS LOMBARDI’S THR TASTE TEST
"I make anything on a pizza crust, which I consider an edible dish. You don’t need to have a recipe: I make shrimp francese pizzas, bacon and egg breakfast pizzas, grilled cheese and tomato pizzas. I make my own pizza dough -- I usually make five or ten at a time, use my favorite oils to oil the Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer, so when you use that dough, you could be using a truffle dough, rosemary dough, basil dough, garlic dough. My fridge always has four or five cheese in it, so I mix and match. I can always turn anything I have in my fridge into a pizza."
Known for Cooking
"I love francese -- that lemon and butter sauce with wine. I make it with either shrimp or chicken. Sometimes I make rigatoni with francese sauce instead of a tomato base, and I bake the pasta with ricotta, mozzarella and good parmesan cheese. I like that feeling of baked pasta."
"I’d probably go to Italy and eat around the country, where they catch the fishes and make it in a restaurant right off the boat."
"I absolutely love Chinese takeout. That’s probably a Bronx thing -- growing up, we’d eat dinner, sit there for three hours arguing with each other, then go out and either get Chinese food or pizza. In my neighborhood in the Bronx, there’s one or two on every corner. Literally, the whole neighborhood. I get the spare ribs, or shrimp with lobster sauce. Oh man. And I like the chow fun with the fat noodles."
"I had goat in Puerto Rico last summer when I was doing Runner, Runner. It looked like such a rancid little animal, all dirty and shit. The guys I was with wouldn’t eat it, and guess what? I actually liked it. I guess if you cook anything enough, it’ll taste good."
Simply Won’t Eat
"Indian food. I just don’t know -- I’m kind of nervous when I see it. It’s like too many colors and smells, too much. All I remember is Tony Soprano getting sick from it on the show!"
"Pizza. But my favorite coffee is Illy -- I won’t drink anything else, and I don’t care if it’s $16 a jar."
"I get up in the morning and make a green smoothie with kale, carrots, celery, tomato, cucumber, lemon and garlic. I blend them instead of juicing because then you get the pulps and fibers. And I actually love them. I almost can’t function without it, believe it or not."
My daughter, my girlfriend, my mother -- none of them are afraid to give their opinions."
"Having horrible service and a good meal. My mother was a server for thirty years -- she worked at IHOP, and I don’t understand how your job is to disappoint me and act like you’re doing me a favor. There’s a lot of great restaurants, but if you go and the service is awful -- the people are bitter, they suck, they hate everything, that’s why some of these Restaurant Impossible-type TV shows do so well because you’re literally showing the bitter sides of people who should be doing their jobs better -- no matter how good the meal is, you won’t enjoy the meal. I’m paying a hundred dollars to eat, and you’re giving me an attitude."
"I would love for my products to be able to start a kind of movement of bringing families back to the table. I want parents to forget the drive-thru and go, ‘I can go home and make a better, healthier, more affordable meal for my kids, and sit down with them instead of sitting in this drive-thru.’ Parents and kids are so separated right now; bring the camaraderie back to your family. Sit back for an hour a night, talk to your kids, show them how to cook, cook with them, enjoy your meal, then go to your room on your iPhone. Teach your kids something creative that you can do together. Everybody has to eat! When I was a kid, I was in the kitchen learning from my grandmother, and my seven-year-old knows how to make pizza better than anybody I know."
[laughs] “People always come up to me: ‘Hey, I loved you on this show, I loved you on that show.’ One day, this guy came up to the table and I’m like, ‘Thanks, man,’ and he’s like, ‘…thanks for what?’ He had no idea who I was! My friends were like, ‘Oh, you asshole!’ This was years ago, and they still make fun of me for it -- they always go, ‘Thanks man, thanks man!’ That’s their running joke. It’s like, you’re not as big of a star as you thought, are you?"
"I like to treat myself to sushi once a week or so. And I gotta be honest with you, I eat a lot of it when I go. I try to eat it in the afternoon because I know I’ll be full for the rest of the day. I love it. In LA, I go to Midori in Studio City. The unique rolls that people make, it’s like all the toppings on a pizza -- where did you come up with that?! It’s almost like a painting, and then they present them so pretty. I love it when people get creative with food."
"Sushi, because then it would put me straight to sleep."