Q&A: Michael Lombardi & Kevin O'Donnell of SRV

Exterior of SRV
Credit: Brian Samuels

SRV’s Venetian cuisine is the product of a long collaboration between Michael Lombardi and Kevin O’Donnell, who (fittingly) first met while they were both training as chefs in Italy. They went on to work side by side in New York and Paris, but finally came back to their native New England—Lombardi is from Connecticut, while O’Donnell is a Rhode Islander—to focus on the Italian food they first bonded over. The duo’s focus on the purity of ingredients, including house-milled flour and homemade pasta, characterizes SRV’s current ethos, a philosophy that has helped thrust the spot into the ranks of Boston’s best.

Boston’s best dish:

Michael Lombardi: The Green Papaya Salad from Little Big Diner is my favorite. It’s bright, crisp, and a little funky, with tons of flavor and texture. I could eat it every day of the week.

Kevin O’Donnell: #32 at Pho Hoa [a noodle soup with steak and brisket] in Dorchester. I eat this the most, so that must count for something.

Desert island spice:

ML: I don’t have one go-to spice per se. I do love cumin, even though I don’t add it to a lot of the food I make.

KO: Aleppo. This finds its way in so much of the food I cook.

Kitchen playlist:

ML: Mediocre (at best) pop music that keeps me smiling and moving. Probably similar to someone’s workout mix. I want something I can sing along to and keep my energy up.

KO: Everything from Common to Gary Clark Jr. to Lady Gaga. Depends on what I’m feeling that day once I step behind the line.

Favorite food destination:

ML: Bologna, Italy. Not only does it have a great, rustic restaurant scene with lots of humble trattorias—it also has some of the best markets I’ve ever seen. You can buy things like porcini mushrooms and truffles on the side of the street. The fact that it’s a university town also makes the energy young and vibrant.

KO: Paris. I love everything that’s going on related to food in that city. You have rustic country-style cooking, Michelin-starred cooking, neo-bistro food, and my favorite: grec frites, a.k.a shawarma.

Cooking inspiration:

ML: It’s a mix: The internal challenge I have with myself to make something tastier, prettier, and unique, as well as the joy of making other people happy.

KO: Reminiscing on memories of traveling—many of which Michael was there for!

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