Chef Michele Mazza brings a lifetime of hospitality experience to the Il Mulino brand, where he has been an Executive Chef for more than 17 years. Since coming aboard, the famed Italian eatery has added more than a dozen locations and two distinct new concepts: Il Mulino Trattoria and Il Mulino Prime, the brand’s first steakhouse.
Born and raised in Torre del Greco, a small Italian village nestled between Naples and Mount Vesuvius, Mazza was surrounded by cooks and food purveyors. His family-owned restaurants and bakeries in the area, plus his mother catered high profile private events in Naples. “My relationship with the kitchen started when I was 8 years old,” remembers Mazza, referring to time spent helping his mother prepare meals for her catering clients. As a young teenager, he worked at a local farm where he learned the value of hard work and carefully tended to the fields and livestock, instilling a dedication to the finest, most authentic ingredients and time-honored traditions. The village is also known for its fishermen, who proudly sold their haul in the markets. Mazza fondly remembers going at dawn to get the freshest catches of branzino, orata, red mullet, clams, mussels and more for their family recipes.
Mazza left Torre del Greco at age 15 to pursue a degree from the Italian Culinary Institute in Genoa. Dedicated to expanding his technique and knowledge, he enthusiastically delved into regional Italian and international cuisines. Three years later, he emerged as a graduate and soon went to work for a prestigious Italian cruise line. He remained there for ten years, embarking on nearly 150 journeys and adding new cooking styles and ingredients from the ports they visited.
In 1980, Mazza immigrated to the US, opening a couple of his own restaurants on the north shore of Long Island. Most notable was Classico Restaurant in Roslyn, where he reigned for 25 years. The Il Mulino team approached him about taking over one of his restaurant spaces, which became the first outpost of the beloved Greenwich Village restaurant. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since joining the renowned restaurant group as Corporate Executive Chef in 2003, Mazza has infused the menus with his signature clean, modern approach to classic Italian dishes and technique, honed over four decades of cooking – from his family’s business to destinations across the globe, to the culinary capital of the world, NYC. Throughout his career, his mantra has remained the same: “I believe that food is comfort and history. This is always on my mind as I am creating dishes for people.” His sentiment is palpable in the warm, comforting classics like Veal Chop and Chicken Parmigiana, generous Dry-aged Steak cuts and fresh pastas made from Mazza’s original recipes, including Short Rib Ravioli and black ink pasta for his Frutti di Mare, as well as fresh roasted Branzino, Dover Sole and Langoustini that are featured on his menus. Each exhibits the exciting yet traditional flavors that are his trademark.
Now with 17 locations and counting, Mazza’s proudest career achievements include growing the Il Mulino brand in New York, to locations in Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, Atlantic City, San Juan, Macau, and Tokyo, plus developing additional trattoria and steakhouse concepts. The key to their success: “quality of the ingredients and hospitable staff,” says Mazza. “We take a lot of time and pride in training our staff to deliver the kind of experience that has come to be expected at Il Mulino.” He also shares his passion for fine cuisine with anyone who is willing to learn, hosting cooking classes at Il Mulino New York and Sunny Isles. When asked about cooking, looking back on his body of work and accomplishments, Mazza shows no signs of stopping: “I work with passion and pleasure and I don’t imagine myself doing anything different.”