Who Am I ?
1: Who am I?
A host, to the core.
2: What do you do and what project are you currently working on?
I’m the owner of Amali restaurant with my partners, Steve Tzolis and Nicola Kotsoni (of Il Cantinori, Periyali, Bar Six, and formerly zeitgeist restaurant Chez Esadda and Aureole). Opening one restaurant in New York City is enough.
3: Where are you from and where are you going?
I am a New Yorker. I grew up in Queens, went to high school in the Bronx, and I live in Manhattan. Brooklyn may be on the horizon but I cross the Verizano only to visit family. I’m always going to Kiki’s restaurant on Agios Sostis Beach in Mykonos, whether it’s in my mind or in reality.
4: Who is your biggest hero?
People you idolize from a far will let you down. I choose my forebears–musicians, bootleggers, teachers, and political refugees.
5: What book is your bible?
For life–I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World by Mike Edison, and without totally ignoring the King James edition.
For fun–A Game of Thrones. I was and am a science fiction dork; I don’t run from it.
6: What are some things you love? And some things you hate?
Love: the Chrysler building, Chef Devon Gilroy’s intensity, performing stand up, brunch,and day drinking. Hearing “She’s Like a Rainbow” by the Stones play during the peak of dinner service.
Hate: practicing law, skinny chefs, misuse of the words well and good, and customers who are not respectful of the staff or fellow diners at Amali. As a good friend once said, maybe we aren’t the restaurant for you.
7: What is your raison d’être?
Meeting people’s expectations.
8: What is your favorite color?
Blue, orange, and brown. Together.
9: Who is your favorite comic book superhero?
See answer to the fifth question. The full answer would take awhile and involve obscure references to X-Men back issues.
10: What is your favorite NYC hot spot?
My nightlife presence is akin to “In Da Club”–it peaked in 2003. Right now I would have to say seeing my buddies at Pulino’s, Roberta’s, or Frankie’s 17. If the name of the restaurant is in the possessive tense, serves Italian, and I worked with the crew there, it makes the list. And Wo Hop on Mulberry. At 5 A.M. only.
11: What turns you on?
My wife is tied with a flawless service. I hope she doesn’t read this article.
12: What would the last question of this questionnaire be if you were the one asking?
Who was your high school nemesis?
A former corporate lawyer in NYC, James Mallios–a budding restaurateur who left the law to become the GM of Resto–was introduced to NYC restaurant pioneers Steve Tzolis and Nicola Kotsoni through the name partner at his former law firm. As a native New Yorker and Greek-American, James was inspired to partner with Steve and Nicola because of their ability to legitimize Greek food, a previously marginalized cuisine on the New York food scene.
While most Mediterranean restaurants feature the “greatest hits” of Greek cuisine, James wanted the menu at Amali to follow the dining experience common to Mediterranean cultures but rarely seen in American-Mediterranean restaurants. It highlights ingredients that are vital, and almost all sourced locally, to the way many Mediterranean people eat on an everyday basis. While flavor combinations vary from region to region, the aesthetic of fresh, humble ingredients prepared in a simple manner is a hallmark of the Mediterranean and the guiding principle behind Amali’s ambiance and cuisine.
Growing up in Queens, James was the only kid in his Greek grade school class whose parents did not own or operate a diner or restaurant–although his great-grandfather operated a speak-easy on the Lower East Side (his grandmother was actually raised at what is still McCauley’s Mission on the LES). Greek and Turkish sailors would smuggle hash, tsipouro (a Greek grappa), and raki (a similar spirit) for sale and they operated a distillery on a boat off-shore. Many people pretend to operate a modern day speak-easy; his family lived it.
Much of the rest of James’ family are political refugees and he can trace his lineage to Venetian roots. Accordingly, he grew up eating in a home that kept the Mediterranean spirit (the spirit that is the inspiration for Amali) alive even if in a foreign land. James’ parents and grandparents cooked using the freshest ingredients they could find, source, and afford at the time. While James’ non-Greek classmates ate Chef Boyardee from a can, his lunch consisted of locally caught fluke with lemon, basil, and oregano (oftentimes from his grandmother’s garden).
Questions by PMc Magazine
Edited by Meaghan Coffey
Photography by Malcolm Brown
Design by Jillian Mercado
Contact Jillian Mercado if you’re interested in becoming a “Who Am I?”
James Mallios, 2011, Photography by Malcolm Brown