Nine on the Line

Michael Press and Michael "Mike" EleFante

Michael Press and Michael "Mike" EleFante took over ownership of Mama Louisa's, 2041 S. Craycroft Road, last August. Press made his bones in New York City, as well as Four Seasons hotels, most recently at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain. While at the Ritz, he launched the award-winning Cayton's Burger Bistro. His partner, Mike EleFante, a Mama Louisa's veteran, whose family owned the long-time Tucson Landmark since 1973. EleFrante grew up in the restaurant, but ventured out into the world of fine dining when he met and joined forces with Press at the Ritz Carlton. The two decided to buy Mama Louisa's in hopes of keeping up with tradition, but add some fresh takes, and more scratch cooking to the mix.

C.J. Hamm,

What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food? 

Press: Carrots sous vide. Never tasted a vegetable so pure in flavor. It was just perfect carrot.

EleFante: At the Ritz Carlton, Chef Joe Harrington made a maple/chili glazed buffalo tenderloin. It was like an everyday dish, with just the right twists on it.

What are you eating these days?

Press: Trying to eat healthy. My wife and I have two young kids, so while shopping for the family, I am checking labels, looking for organics, or just healthier and better options.

EleFante: I am eating things that I can pronounce all of the ingredients. I have a young child as well, and I don't want to have to have a science degree to know what I am feeding my family.

What was the first dish you remember cooking?  

Press: When I was in college in London, I would saute chicken breasts in Italian dressing and pour it over a salad. I ate this like four times a week!

EleFante: An omelet with my dad when I was 8. He told me that eggs are the first dish you should master. He taught me the technique on a perfect omelet.

What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can't stomach?  

Press: KALE!!!

EleFante: Kale. Growing up in an Italian Restaurant, kale was always just a garnish. If you wanted to get real fancy, you would use the purple kale.

What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with? 

Press: I would love to cook and sit down with Marco Pierre White. He is such a perfectionist from start to finish with his meals. Plus, he is the original bad ass chef, who does real classic french food. It would be an interesting experience.

EleFante: Emeril Lagasse. He is nostalgic for me. My dad has passed away, and we would always watch him together. I love how Emeril would still jump on the line at Commander's Palace and show all his cooks who was who.

What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat? 

Press: This is a tough one, but I would go with New York City. I was just back this summer, and I love how you can go to places like Eataly, the Carnegie Deli, and Chelsea Market and have such a different culinary experience. The wife and I had a progressive lunch at Chelsea Market, not many places you can do that at.

EleFante: Vegas. Yeah there are some garbage places, but there are so many gems. You can eat at Scarpettas one day, and the next get a completely unique experience/cuisine al within a couple blocks.

Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure? 

Press: Kraft macaroni and cheese.

EleFante: Chocolate. I am not really a pastry guy, but put something chocolate in front of me and I'm eating it!

Top three Tucson restaurants? 

Press: Jun Dynasty, Pizzeria Bianco and Ginza Sushi.

EleFante: Poco & Moms, Proper and Agustin Kitchen

With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?

Press: I would start with some sashimi, blue fin, toro and hamachi. Then have a perfect medium rare prime Kansas City Steak, with sauteed chanterelles and macaroni and cheese. I would finish with my grandmother's strudel.

EleFante: Have to start with raw oysters. Then have a medium rare, dry aged tomahawk ribeye with seared scallops, garlic/shallot mashed potatoes and some mac and cheese. Then a triple chocolate cake!

After some discussion, the Mike's and I decided that their last meals would most certainly be complete with a bottle or two of Screaming Eagle wine stolen from the French Laundry Restaurant. My kinda guys!