For Marc LaMaina, it was a birthday to remember. Not only did he turn 40 years old on Friday, but celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli visited LaMaina’s Lucharitos in Center Moriches with a production crew to film an episode of her Food Network digital series “Fix Me A Plate.”
The “Chopped” judge and Iron Chef made wood-fired farm veggie quesadillas with Joseph Taffurelli, the head chef of the Center Moriches Lucharitos.
In an Instagram post, Taffurelli described the experience as a surreal career highlight.
“I’ll admit that I was a little nervous at this moment, but she quickly calmed me down and told me to smile,” Taffurelli said. “She is super down to earth and easy to talk to. “
Guarnaschelli’s visit coincided with LaMaina’s 40th birthday. “Best birthday present ever,” LaMaina said.
The restaurant owner said Guarnaschelli also spoke with him and Kevin Sage, his business partner, about how they started Lucharitos and their future plans for the brand.
Guarnaschelli was familiar with Lucharitos because she has been to the company’s Greenport location, LaMaina said.
The producer for “Fix Me A Plate” reached out to Lucharitos operation manager Devin McMahon to learn more about the restaurant. The show’s producers showed interest in the Center Moriches location because it is outside.
“She said she has never seen a property like this before,” LaMaina said. “And to have someone with her skill set and background say that means a lot. Because honestly, the last 16 months here have tested me. And I’m glad I decided to stick it out.”
Among other things, a garage fire and COVID-19 delayed LaMaina’s Center Moriches location’s opening. He has been operating out of a taco truck and seating customers at picnic tables while renovating the main building.
LaMaina said Guarnaschelli’s visit vindicated his trying efforts. “This experience was a testimony that hard work pays off.”