Detroit and Rome have more in common than you think.
SheWolf Pastificio & Bar Executive Chef Anthony Lombardo learned his craft at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City and has been a featured chef at the acclaimed James Beard House and is a 2019 award semifinalist. There are no additives or preservatives to his story, hospitality is in his DNA.
EXP|DET Contributing Editor Kate Lazarski breaks bread with Chef Lombardo to find out the special sauce behind the new Roman inspired Cass Corridor hotspot
KL: When and where did your love affair with cooking start?
AL: I was born in Detroit and raised outside the city in Sterling Heights, a melting-pot community of Chaldeans, Lebanese, Greeks, Albanians, Macedonians and other Italians. My family valued Sunday night dinners and I was raised to be obsessed with food. Naturally, this led me to the restaurant business. I started as a dishwasher when I was seventeen and the rest is history.
KL: Where was the most influential space you’ve drawn inspiration from?
AL: A few years ago, I spent a summer in Rome researching Roman food. Not only did that summer inspire the SheWolf menu, but also the name of the restaurant. SheWolf was a mythological creature who nursed, sheltered, and raised Romulus and Remus, twin brothers, abandoned by their father who ultimately founded the city of Rome – it’s a great comeback story – just like Detroit. I find so many parallels between Rome and Detroit – the rise and the fall and the rise again, the metropolis epicenter of two countries, the old and the new. Romans and Detroiters are both very proud people with rich histories.
KL: Where do you source your ingredients?
AL: I always go Hampshire Farms in Eastern Market. The grains are always Michigan grown, organic, and top quality. We mill all the grains in house to handcraft the pasta in a room enclosed in glass where diners can watch the process.
KL: What is your favorite dish on the menu to make and eat?
AL: There are four classic pastas on the menu with the most important sauces in Rome – carbona, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe. My favorite dish is the campanelle con fegato. It’s chicken liver with pasta. People are hesitant to order it, but once they try it, they fall in love. It’s a pasta play on a chicken liver mousse but has an added nuttiness from the Michigan spelt.
KL: Who else do you feel is cultivating the food scene in Detroit?
KL: I know pasta is your thing, but do you have a favorite pizza joint?
AL: There is nothing better than a classic Supino pizza.
KL: How do you spend your time away from the restaurant?
AL: I’ve been keeping busy since we opened in June but when I do have “days off” I find myself still cooking. I’m on a soup kick right now.
KL: Any plans for future projects?
AL: Not just yet! Hopefully we can do more in the community and non-profit sector in the future.