Marc Randazzo on Jail Eats and Mickey Rourke's Nose
Marc Randazzo loves his customers. Really.
Photo by Riki Altman
Were you knocked out by yesterday's interview? If not, read part one again... or we'll beat you up.
New Times: You've got tons of photos of celebrities on your walls. Who's the most famous you've cooked for?
Marc Randazzo: I cooked for President Clinton and his wife. And a lot of fighters. The best person I cooked for was Mickey Rourke -- I'm a big fan. I've seen Pope of Greenwich Village about 200 times. I kinda helped him when he was boxing. I always told him I was going to do an Italian restaurant and he thought I was kidding. We became good friends when he was fighting. Then we lost touch for a couple years and he showed up at my restaurant when my friend Tommy Pooch brought him in.
The first day I met him he was starting to box. He came in to spar with this other fighter who didn't show up. I told his trainer, I'll spar with him. I'll take it easy on him. I won't hurt him. His trainer said, "Listen, he doesn't really know how to fight like you do, but he doesn't know that, so he's gonna come at you really hard." So I told him I'd work with him.
Are you the reason for his crooked nose then?
I liked him too much to hit him. I let him hit me.
And the fighters?
When I used to go to training camp with Evander Holyfield we would rent out a whole floor of a hotel. My trainer, he gave me the confidence to tell people I could cook. At least, back in the '70s, it was a girlie thing so I didn't tell the fighters I liked to cook. He kinda gave me the courage to come out of the closet as a cook.
Do you call yourself a chef now?
I'm just a cook. I cook my mother's recipes.
What would you eat for your last meal?
My mother's meatballs.
You'd have her cook for you? That's sweet.
I'd make 'em myself. I'm a better cook than her. Whenever I go home, my dad makes me cook for him.
Any other cuisines you like to cook?
I do Cuban for my wife. I really enjoy Mexican.
What have you not attempted?
Chinese. That's a totally different style.
What advice would you give a first time chef?
I would tell you to work in a the kind of restaurant with the kind of food you like. Learn as much as you can. Then I would try to talk you out of it. There's so much stress. People don't realize how much stress it is to try to get out 100 plates at one time and every one of them has to be perfect. I've worked so many jobs. I've worked construction, I was in the Marine Corps, I was a boxer. The most stressful by far is cooking. Other than being Mr. Mom.
Anyone dare complain about your food?
I've never had a complaint about the food. Maybe people are scared of me when I come to the table. Well, one complaint: that the portions are too big. [Laughs]
I suspect they're afraid of raising your ire.
I'm really passive-aggressive. I take a lot. I've had a few fights in the restaurant. I'm such a giver, so when I feel like being taken advantage of, I explode. When I have time to think I get stressed out. But when I'm in the eye of the storm I get relaxed. I guess that comes from fighting because when punches are being thrown at me, you have to think and breathe. You learn to function under really high stress. If you don't relax you get hit more.
Speaking of throwing punches, did your arrest affect business negatively?
It actually helped my business! People know I'm off the wall, anyways. Even though I am always a role model to my kids. I'm an ex-fighter. I am what I am.
So what's your side of the story?
The problem is, the day this happened, I lost my kids. I didn't realize I lost my kids. I was doing a party upstairs [in Randazzo's] and they kinda walked off. I went to my ex-wife's house and started banging on her door looking for my kids. That was more of a panic attack. I wasn't angry. People didn't understand I was scared. I was trying to explain that as I was getting arrested but they wouldn't let me talk so it ended up looking like a scuffle, but really it was a misunderstanding. Anger had no part in it at all. I was scared to death.
What happened with that court case?
I was given two years probation. It was a great experience, though, because I had a wonderful judge. He was the attorney for the Elian Gonzalez case. He was a fair guy. He understood the dynamics of it.
What do you remember of your time in the clinker?
When I was in the Dade County Jail the food there was so bad. It's inedible. And I can eat anything. I'd love to go back and cook for them one day.
Think your kids will take over the business someday?
My son looks just like me. He loves to cook. So when there comes a time when I'm too tired I'm gonna slip him in the kitchen. He's Marc Randazzo--same name. Nobody is going to know the difference. He's going to become a better cook than me.
What are your future plans?
I'm not in this to make money. I want to turn this into an institution. I have a big ego. It's more important to me that people have a good time. I get more gratification out of this than I did when I was boxing. I got to hear 30 time--once for each fight--"Hey, great job champ," when I won. Here I get to hear that 30 to 40 times a night. It's really neat.
Monday you'll get to try his award-winning seafood salad. It's killer.
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