Chances are, you’ve heard of at least one of Michael Schlow’s restaurants. The chef runs three eateries in the area (Via Matta, Tico and Alta Strada in Wellesley), and quite a few more nationally. We chatted with him about what keeps the Brooklyn native in Boston, how the cooking scene here has changed and tried to pin him down about which restaurant is secretly his favorite.
What do you like about living in Boston?
I came to Boston from New York with the intention of only staying for three years, and that was 19 years ago. Obviously the weather has not been what’s kept me here. But it’s everything else. It’s a great city. It’s got everything going for it. We live in the South End, and there are few places in this country that make me feel like the West Village in New York. It really has an interesting, artistic, ethnic, diverse feeling to it.
How has the food culture changed in the time since you've lived here?
When I moved there, Newbury Street was the center of the universe. With the exception of Rialto, which was obviously in Cambridge, a lot of the restaurants centered around the Back Bay area for the most part, and the North End, which is always going to be this great authentic feeling Italian neighborhood. But you didn’t have Southie or Seaport or Fort Point Channel or Cambridge other than a couple isolated restaurants.
If you had to pick a favorite restaurant, which would it be?
Aw that’s…no, I can’t do that. How about this — the one I’m cooking in at that moment is my favorite one. No, I can’t do that. I really couldn’t! I do feel the same about every one of them. I don’t look at them at all differently. ...The nice part about having different concepts is, if I feel like, oh I really want to make pasta right now, I’m going to Via Matta, and I’m going to spend the day there and I’m going to make pasta for everybody.
Well, here's an easier one: What spice can't you live without?
Crushed red pepper. I could put hot sauce on everything. I like spicy.