Bio: 33; Philly local (he went to Parkway High School), single and living in South Philadelphia.

What's new? Chef-owner of Zeppoli (618 Collings Ave., Collingswood, N.J.). The BYOB's "distinctive and soulfully wrought" Sicilian dishes rang two bells for Inquirer critic Craig LaBan.

Philly restaurant connections: Brasserie Perrier, Vetri, Amada, Osteria, Vetri (again).

Starting out: As a 13-year-old, cleared tables at Mr. Martino's Trattoria in South Philly.

Schooling: Business degree from Temple University; attended the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan.

Go-to utensil: "Probably the Microplane Zester, but nothing beats a good chef knife. That's a hard question to answer."

Favorite ingredient: A combination of zucchini with basil.

Essential chef skill: On a personal level, above cooking, I'm proud to be a business owner and give jobs to people.

If you weren't a chef? "I'd be a firefighter, so I could help people and change people's lives in a good way."

Most memorable meal? "Probably my last dinner at Zahav. I don't get to eat out much, and the last time I had an awesome time."

Heroes: My parents. They taught me a good work ethic and how to be a good person.

In mom's kitchen: My mom and two aunts were always cooking classic southern Italian dishes. They made seafood, bread, pastries - the list could go on and on.

So what do you cook better than mom does? "Nothing."

Tattoos? "A large "Mom" on my back."

Learn more about Philly-area restaurants and the chefs who've run their kitchens at our interactive guide, The Restaurant Connection, philly.com/restaurantconnect.