Owner of Uncle Jack's Steak House, this thriving, hard-driving business manager, and sometime chef, loves his life, and though he never stops thinking about it, not even for a minute, he's proud that he can claim one of New York's most popular steak house chains as his very own.
Michael Lomonaco thought he'd take the elevator up to his office but he really needed to get his glasses repaired so, a little after 8 on a sunny September morning, he went down to the optical shop in the lobby. It was a fateful decision for the noted American chef/director at the time, restaurateur and TV personality.
As they say, “there’s nothing like mama’s cooking”, and Guy Lombardi knows this first hand. Growing up in Avellino, Italy, Guy was spoiled by his mother’s traditional Italian cooking. At a young age he was exposed to all aspects of the kitchen, helping his mother as much as he could, igniting the passion that has led to the Lombardi Empire that stands today.
When Yonkers Raceway fell on hard times, the Rooney family came up with the idea to add a casino, as it had been doing in Pittsburgh and other places. In the beginning, the family didn’t focus too much on food and beverage, knowing that most of the people coming to the Empire City Casino were there just for the gaming.
How did you get into the industry?
By chance, I literally started working as a receptionist in 1977 at the Larchmont Yacht Club and worked there through college right through my time at Arizona State. I progressed and ended up being the Maitre d' and Captain. To tell you the truth I grew up in very modest means and I though that if I worked at a club I would learn how people of wealth and successful means were made and that it would rub off on me and with that would come the key to wealth.
What prompted the creation of ROC?
9/11, on September 11, there was a restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center, Tower 1. And there were 72 workers who died that morning in the restaurant. And about 250 workers who lost their jobs. And so we started the organization initially to support the workers who had lost their jobs. But we were soon overwhelmed with calls for help from workers. First from all over the city and then all over the country. And that's how ROC grew.
How did you get into the industry?
I originally planned to go to law school after college, but decided to take a summer job working for my grandfather at Admiration Foods after graduation. My grandfather was very old school. He would never give you anything unless you earned it. It didn't matter that I was his grandchild, if I wanted to get paid I had to prove myself to him. I enrolled in a business law and an accounting class, and he started to include me as an integral member of his executive team.
So what attracted you to the opportunity at NJRA?
I had been a member actually through my previous employer with the restaurant association and had worked closely with Deborah Dowdell on a state tourism committee. So for 10 years we served on the New Jersey Travel Industry Association together.
I knew Deborah, I knew the organization. I'd been involved and attended some of the events. So, you know it was not new to me. I was very aware of the excellent reputation that it has in the state of New Jersey. It was unfortunately the sadness of Deborah's passing because she was the Restaurant Association. It's a wonderful opportunity. I'm excited to be here but at the same time, every day I walk in this office I do think of her.