Antonia Lofaso is chef and partner at Scopa Italian Roots in Venice and at Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City, but she started her culinary career making corn dogs at Hot Dog on a Stick in the Sherman Oaks Galleria and as a host at Chin Chin in Studio City. Before graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, she was also a manager at Sean "Diddy" Combs' now-closed Justin's Restaurant. She moved back to Los Angeles to work at Wolfgang Pucks' Spago, where she spent six years before signing on as executive chef at SBE's now-closed Foxtail in West Hollywood. But you probably recognize her as a contestant on Season 4 of "Top Chef." Since then, she's opened her two Los Angeles restaurants and published "The Busy Mom's Cookbook." You can also catch her on TV with regular appearances on the Food Network's "Cutthroat Kitchen" and as a culinary consultant on CNBC's "Restaurant Startup," which airs its season finale Tuesday.
Guilty pleasure? I love Stouffer's French bread pizza. It's so good. I ate it every day while I was pregnant. It has to be double cheese, and it has to be extra crispy. And then I followed it up with straight Chips Ahoy cookies dipped in milk. I'm sure Stouffer's does a good job, and I'm in no way affiliated with them, but they do not tell you to heat your oven high enough. Bake it at 425 for extra crispy. I'm sure they have people out there who are working on that problem, but I've solved it.
Best celebrity sighting? My biggest celebrity sighting that I actually waited on was Denzel Washington. And then Denzel was in here having dinner not too long ago, you know, and I was, like, "That's so awesome. I waited on you when I was in college and now you're eating in my venue."
What's it like being a female chef in L.A. right now? I'm so proud of the way I've seen this restaurant scene turn in general. When you talked about California, everyone was, like, "Well, if you're not eating in San Francisco, you're not eating." And as far as I'm concerned, we are rivaling everything in the country. I wouldn't go anywhere else in the country to open restaurants. I didn't grow up with the idea that because I'm a female I can't do any of this. Yes, it's a male-dominated area, but I never look at it like male or female; I just look at it like I want to do this too.
Best meal you've ever had? It was actually so unexpected because I'm not really into fine dining anymore, but it was in Chicago at Spiaggia. It was just like the most perfect connection of fine dining and comfort food that I'd ever seen. There was a piece of braised jowl and it had this perfectly cooked piece of maitake mushroom on it. I'm like salivating, I wish I could eat that right now.
Biggest perk of being a "Top Chef" alum? It's been really nice to have people want to come out and support you and want to come out and see what you're doing. They are so willing to support any of the "Top Chefs" because they kind of fall in love with their story because they spend so many weeks watching them on TV and seeing what they are going through.