Chef at former World Trade Center restaurant hopes COVID-19 crisis unites Americans: 'After 9/11 the country came together'

Remember Friday night at your favorite neighborhood haunt? The feeling of snagging a reservation at the new, hot brunch spot in town? Or dressing up to celebrate a milestone at that special occasion place? 

Restaurants have been woven into the fabric of America’s food culture for as long as we can remember. And though the current coronavirus pandemic has everyone sharpening their knives and their culinary skills at home, we’re still craving the fun, flavors and fantasy of dining out.

So until we’re able to congregate at our favorite spots again, we’re bringing the restaurant experience directly into your home with a 3D chef’s table. Michael Lomanaco, chef and owner of Porter House Bar and Grill in the Time Warner Center in New York City, has selected three of his most cherished recipes and is serving them up in augmented reality.

Launch the experience below to join him.

To hear the stories behind the amazing meals, activate the audio in the top right corner. And to learn more about Lomonaco and his work cooking at some of the city’s most iconic restaurants, including 21 Club and Windows on the World, where he was the World Trade Center’s famous restaurant’s last executive chef, continue reading. 

How have you been passing the time in quarantine? 

I have been working from home with my partners on the strategy and planning for our reopening menu, staffing and sanitation requirements. I have been cooking — something I have always loved to do at home — and baking some bread, which is new to me in the home setting. I listen to a lot of music: The Grateful Dead, classic and alt rock, jazz, I have a sizable music collection. I have been working on my personal photo collection doing some organizing and editing, reading and considering the future. I have been spending a considerable amount of time connecting with friends and family, especially through Zoom cocktail parties

Porter House Bar and Grill is a staple in the NYC dining scene. What was it like to have to shut down? Is there any timeline for reopening? 

The saddest day for me was when we had to close and furlough our staff. My team is incredibly important to me, working in the kitchen or dining room. I have been fortunate to have a great team of people I work with every day. I miss them day to day, as I'm sure they do as well. Work is vital to our existence as humans in so many ways: financially, the cooperative nature and especially the personal rewards of accomplishment and purpose. Subject to the state reopening, we are now working on the day-to-day operation under social distancing, sanitation and returning Porter House Bar and Grill to the great restaurant it has been for years.

The last great tragedy to hit the country on this scale was 9/11, when you were the executive chef at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center. How did 9/11 affect your life and career going forward?

I have always been an optimistic person — realistic — but hopeful for the future and all the good things it can hold for us all. Responding in a time of crisis with resilience, fortitude and the drive to survive has served me throughout my life. After 9/11 the country came together; New York City became stronger and the wave of hopefulness lifted us all. Focus on the future and we can dig ourselves out of this current crisis. Of course, trust science, allow the healthcare  professionals to guide us through this and we will come out of this together. 

What was the industry response then, and how does that compare to the response now?

While the restaurant industry in NYC was deeply affected for a short time afterwards because diners were reluctant to go out, the overall industry wasn’t shut down as we are now. This is an unprecedented time. As we pull together the industry needs genuine help from the federal government and it needs leadership that can help get the industry back on its feet while our diners recover in so many ways. 

What do you think the future holds for the restaurant industry? 

We will respond in a professional way and accept the changes imposed on us, create a safe and sanitary environment and once again return to welcoming guests in as hospitable a manner as possible. We'll offer a restorative environment, a sanctuary in which to break bread with those we care most about. 

In the meantime, we're inviting people to your 3D chef's table — what would you like to say to welcome them? 

The joy of the table, where we come together to celebrate and share a meal, is one of life’s great experiences. Join me to share some time together while we eat and drink and toast each other and restore ourselves and break bread together and become friends for life — the most valuable gift there is.  

Here are the three recipes shared in Michael Lomonaco’s AR experience. 


Chef Michael Lomonaco 

Yield: 4-6 portions


4 rib veal chops, pounded to a thin paillard or cutlet with bone still attached

1 cup flour

3 eggs

1\4 cup milk

2 tablespoons pure olive oil plus 1\3 cup for sauté

1\2 teaspoon salt 

1\2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1\2 cups bread crumb

1\4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1\4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 large beefsteak tomato, about 3\4 - 1 pound, seeds removed and cut into 1\2 inch dice

8-10 basil leaves, hand shredded

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

1\2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


  1. Pound the veal (or have a butcher do this ahead of time) to a 1\4 inch thin and broad cutlet, leaving the bone still attached. Set aside while you prepare the breading setup.

  2. Put the flour on a dish large enough in which to dredge the veal on. Combine the eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl or dish with sides high enough to hold the liquid and veal chops.

  3. Next, combine the bread crumbs, parsley and parmesan cheese in a large flat casserole so that the process of breading may be kept neat and tidy.

  4. Make the tomato vinaigrette by combining the diced tomato with the shredded basil leaves in a bowl. Stir in the lemon juice, whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

  5. Heat the 1\3 cup olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the veal cutlets one at a time, or if they are small enough and your pan is large enough, two at a time. As you sauté the veal, brown one side well before turning the veal to cook the other side. Brown the second side and keep the veal warm in a 250° oven while the rest are cooked. 

  6. Serve the veal with a generous spoonful of the tomato - basil vinaigrette over the top.


Chef Michael Lomonaco

Yield: 1 quart


3 tbsp olive oil

4 cups canned San Marzano plum tomatoes

1 small whole peeled onion

Basil leaves

Salt and pepper



  1. Over medium heat, warm the oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pot. 

  2. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and crush the tomatoes by hand, discarding any stems or basil that had been packed in the can. Measure one can full of water and add to the tomatoes 

  3. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and add several basil leaves, stir occasionally to avoid scorching the bottom. 

  4. Add the whole onion to the tomatoes in the pot

  5. After the tomato sauce begins to boil, lower the heat to a low simmer and cook for 35 minutes 

  6. Adjust the seasoning, add additional basil if needed

  7. Remove and cool or use immediately 


Chef Michael Lomonaco 


½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic

½ cup Italian parsley leaves

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme & rosemary –plucked leaves only—stems removed--

1 -36 ounce aged Rib Steak, cut on the bone, 3-4 inches thick

½ fresh lemon

Coarse Kosher salt 

Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine the oil, garlic, parsley and rosemary leaves in a food processor. Pulse to finely chop. Pour half the marinade oil-herb mixture over the steaks in a large dish and marinate the steaks 2 hours or overnight, refrigerated. 

  2. Heat a 12 inch cast iron pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Remove the steak from the marinade, wipe off excess   and season with coarse salt and black pepper, place the steak in a cast iron pan or over an open grill.  lower the heat to medium to prevent flare up and to reduce excessive charring—char one side before turning

  3. Cook the rib steak, once turned, to desired doneness by transferring the pan to a hot over or if over a grill move to the outer edge and lower the cover---Allow approximately 17-20 minutes total cooking time for medium rare. Remove and allow 10 minutes resting time

  4. Carve the rested steak across the rib starting from one end and working towards the bone--cutting into ½ inch thick, ribbons of beef, placing several slices on each of the four salads.  

  5. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the steaks, drizzle any remaining oil-herb mix and serve. 

  6. Serve with grilled Caesar salad