It might not be what you’d expect of a Boston-bred boy of Sicilian-American heritage, but Tony Messina is turning out some of the finest sashimi the city has to offer.
Messina started working with a caterer at the age of 14, but left cooking in his late teens to pursue other interests, including a stint as one of Boston’s finest when he joined the police academy. Eventually, however, he felt the call of the kitchen too strongly and found his way to Michael Schlow’s Alta Strada, an Italian restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts. From there he moved to No. 9 Park under Chef Colin Lynch which led to a position on the opening team of Menton.
Feeling a bit stuck creatively by Western cuisine, Messina jumped when he heard former Uni Chef Chris Chung was planning to open his own restaurant. After a stage, Chung offered Messina a position at Aka Bistro—if he could bear to wait four months. In the meantime, Messina staged wherever he could, picking up tips and techniques along the way. After a year and a half of immersing himself in Japanese cuisine: learning everything he could from Chung, and reading anything he couldn’t, the executive chef position at Uni resurfaced. Again, Messina jumped and landed the role. Although Uni reads Japanese, Messina describes the cuisine as more globally influenced—using traditionally Japanese ingredients and filtering them through other cuisines—a philosophy surely cultivated by that strong Italian upbringing.