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Actor hopes that food gets families back to table

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Todd Harrison Yaskal
Louis Lombardi

Louis Lombardi is passionate about food. In fact, the veteran of “24,” “The Sopranos” and, most recently, TNT's new drama “Lost Angels” and the upcoming film “Runner Runner,” is the first to admit that he's got as much passion for food as he does for acting. “Every time I talk about food, I think about my grandma cooking,” says this self-proclaimed “goofy Italian guy.”

But it's not just the enjoyment of a good, home-cooked meal that resonates with him. It's the camaraderie with family and friends sitting around a dinner table that is paramount. So important, in fact, that he launched a gourmet Italian food line, Lombardi Gourmet (www.lombardigourmet.com). Imported from Italy, his products include pasta, sauces, olive oil and olives — all with the intention of bringing families back to the dinner table.

To him, it's one of the most important pieces missing from today's hectic lifestyles. More than just a meal savored together, it's a chance to re-connect and relax. No phones, no Facebook, no Twitter — nothing but some good old conversation with the ones you love.

“You can have all the money, but nothing's more important than family and friends,” he says.

Question: Why is it so important for you to bring families back to dinner?

Answer: When I grew up, everyone would sit around the dinner table and eat and talk and, even if you were fighting, you were still at the table with the camaraderie of that — of family and friends. There is no more of that. What I'm trying to do, with my products, I'm trying to bring families back to the dinner table. That's the motto for my company. Let's sit around. Ask your kids if they had a good day, ask your kids if they're OK. Don't just go, “Here's McDonald's, here's a video game, shut up, I'm tired, I've been working all day.” People go, “What's wrong with these kids today?” I think that is the No. 1 thing that's wrong: The families don't bond with anyone no more, no one talks to anyone no more. It's just a “leave me alone” mentality. And I think that's horrible. I think that's the destruction of our country, to be honest with you.

Q: Are we too cynical in the year 2013 to appreciate home-cooked meals and time around the dinner table?

A: No. What I do think is that people just don't want to do it. I think parents just don't want to take the time to do it. I think they're too into their own, you know, “I have work, I have this, I have that.” No one really goes, “Hey, let's talk. How was school?” People are just into themselves, and they don't really feel like they're missing their family. They think they're doing a great job because they go, “You got a roof over your head, you got this, you got that.” Just because I got a roof over my head doesn't mean I'm a happy kid, you know?

Q: What does the dinner table represent to you?

A: Family camaraderie, bonding, laughing, crying, holidays. Every good thing you can have. To me, eating with your family and friends is definitely an important part of what we need in our life. For families, for everything, it really is.

Q: Did your mom ever view cooking as an arduous task?

A: Never! It was a joy, it was fun. It was a great experience. I'd be a kid sitting in the house, and all of us would be sitting there eating and laughing even if we were in bad moods fighting with each other, we were still sitting at that table, discussing life and what stuff is. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to be the best chef. It just means you've got to enjoy what you're doing. My grandmother used to cook for 20 of us, 30 of us, all the time. It was never just eat and go home. We would sit around and talk and enjoy what we were doing. Not just on Sundays, this was every night.

Q: It's your last day on earth, what's your idea of the ultimate final meal?

A: Pizza! Pizza's my favorite. I make my own doughs in my house. I'll use all these different olive oils, so I make 10 pizza doughs at a time. I'll put anything on a pizza. I'll make chicken-marsala pizza, shrimp and pesto. I make a breakfast pizza, with scrambled eggs, sausage, ham. I just experiment. I believe pizza crust is an edible dish. You put that on anything! You can make dessert pizzas: Nutella, chop up strawberries, and your kids are eating a fun, healthy dessert.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kbenz@tribweb.com or 412-380-8515.

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