What is your favorite restaurant (that’s not one of your own)?
Villa di Roma in South Philadelphia. It’s this quiet neighborhood restaurant that serves unpretentious, simple Italian American food—the kind that you can’t get anywhere else.
What was the earliest restaurant experience that remains with you?
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs on the Coney Island Boardwalk. It was one of those experiences that unlocked a core memory for me as a kid. I will never forget it.
What brings you the greatest joy when you visit the new Makoto?
The design. India Mahdavi did such a great job channeling Miami’s energy while bringing a softer touch to Makoto. It’s still the same Makoto, but it breathes new energy and boasts a vibrancy that is unique to Miami.
What’s your favorite dish to order at Le Zoo?
The truffled pasta is a classic and one of my favorites. It’s a must-try dish.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Despite all the restaurants I’ve opened, my greatest achievement so far has been my children. They are my pride and joy.
Was there a chef or project that in hindsight you regret not pursuing?
Not partnering with the talented chef Missy Robbins (Lilia, Misi). She makes the best pasta I’ve ever had. I was too busy opening Upland in New York to focus on the opportunity to partner with Missy, but maybe one day that chance will come again.
A designer you’d love to work with?
I would have loved to work with the late great Zaha Hadid. I would also like to collaborate with Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. His work is stunning.
What current project are you most excited about?
The expansion of Pastis—with Miami as the next stop! Pastis is an iconic French bistro that I partnered with Keith McNally to reopen in New York’s historic Meatpacking District, and I’m excited to bring the concept to Miami.
Who has had the greatest impact on your career?
The two people that have influenced me the most as a restaurateur are hoteliers Ian Schrager and André Balazs.
The city you find most visually inspiring?
Paris, without a doubt. The idyllic sidewalk cafes, the art galleries, the architecture… Paris always inspires me.