How to Learn to Stop Worrying … and Love the Vegetarian Meatloaf

To support our troops overseas, New Yorkers don’t have to search for war bonds. They can simply nestle in between the Cézanne-inspired murals at the Josephina restaurant across from Lincoln Center and order the almond-crusted crab cakes. That’s because every meal ordered at Josephina supports the restaurant’s principal owner and chef, Louis Lanza, and his father, Frank–the latter a part owner who also happens to run L-3, the largest defense-contracting company in New York City.

Call it Manhattan’s military-industrial-culinary complex. While diners at his and his son’s restaurant slurp soy shakes, Frank Lanza’s L-3 manufactures the satellite-communications systems and some of the sensors used by Army Rangers, as well as the tactical-display units used by the F-14 Tomcats that blasted Afghanistan. The company also made the communications systems for the unmanned Predator airplanes–and for the C-17’s that air-dropped peanut-butter rations to the Afghan people. Said Frank Lanza: “We aim to be the Home Depot of the defense industry.”

Meanwhile, Louis Lanza makes his living manufacturing Portobello-mushroom fajitas, beet-carrot-infused edamame and marinated grilled tempeh. The Lanza family’s culinary roots stretch back to early 20th-century San Francisco, where Frank Lanza’s father started the first fish restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf with his Brooklyn-born wife, Josephina. Today the family owns five restaurants in Manhattan, including Jose-phina; the Citrus Bar and Grill on Amsterdam and 75th; Better Burgers, a new healthy fast-food stop on Third Avenue and Third Street; and a pair of health-food diners called Josie’s–one each on the Upper West and East sides. Louis pretty much runs the day-to-day show; Frank said his participation is “mainly on the front end: how to build it, how to finance it, what kind of décor …. It makes me feel good.”

Though the family dabbled in comparatively high-calorie Cajun cuisine earlier in the decade, almost all of the food in the Lanzas’ restaurants today is unabashedly wholesome and health-oriented. Louis, who switched to a macrobiotic diet in 1994 when a girlfriend was stricken with cancer, describes his lean fare as “conscious cuisine.”

And while there are obvious contrasts between the health-food business and the defense business, Louis Lanza has no qualms about his father’s line of work. Asked whether he was worried that any left-leaning vegetarian customers would be concerned if they knew about L-3’s role in the war effort, Louis chuckled. “After Sept. 11, I think they would be very happy,” he said.

Most of the Lanza family’s customers, indeed, appear to be fine with the suggestion that their tofu might somehow be connected to a Tomahawk missile. “It was good food, and I believe in that stuff. Bomb ’em to hell,” said a man named Mark, from North Massepequa, on a recent rainy night as he left Josephina. Said Jonathan, an Upper West Side diner: “It’s not a direct contribution to patrotism, but to the extent that it is, I think that it’s a good thing.” John, an employee at a Canadian aerospace company, offered: “I know who Frank Lanza is, but how I eat doesn’t affect my politics.”

Other customers found the relationship rather amusing. “I had the sea bass, and there’s definitely a connection to the military,” said Laura, a diner from midtown. Said Annette, from Lynnbrook: “I didn’t find any spy devices in the St. Peter’s Fish.”

That night, in fact, only a couple of Josephina’s customers showed any concern about the Lanza family’s rather paradoxical holdings. “It’s vegetarian healthy food. That’s why I don’t like [hearing about the relationship to L-3],” said Ellie, a diner from the Upper West Side. “But I don’t think that there’s any connection between the weapons and the food.” Said Naomi, from Dearamest, N.J., “They had good food, but if they used the whole military budget to make the food, it’d be even better.”

–Nicholas Thompson

My First 90 Days

Top execs know how to save time–e.g., Mayor Mike throws out first Mets/Yanks balls of season from office window. Also: I buy next-door apartment in my building & set up Mayoral office there. Think of daily time savings for Mayor Mike w/o office commute! (Sublet Gracie Mansion & City Hall to finance?)

1) Offer Rudy all-expenses three-month Bora Bora vacation, 2) Buy Bora Bora airport, 3) Shut it down.

Give self Key to City–dynamic top execs show who’s boss!

Hire limo chauffeur. (Mark Green? Knows city, needs work.)

Memorize: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Richmond. (Is Richmond Staten Island?) Regardless, find out where Staten Island is, visit.

P.S.: Think about adding ferries from Manhattan to Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx–this Mayor plays no faves!

Get somebody onto buying Rudy an ambassadorship! Important: Country must have bad telecommunications.

List N.Y.C. on Nasdaq?

Idea: Make Jack Welch Schools Chancellor. Kick ass, cut costs, sell off underperforming assets. Remind Jack: could be another book!

Appoint self Taxi & Limo Commissioner. (Why no stretch taxis? Demand answer by end of day!)

Put somebody onto finding out what’s the diff between Republicans and G.O.P. Invite both in for coffee, show Mayor Mike a great conciliator.

Get Lutece catering contract for school cafeterias. Mayor Mike doesn’t eat swill, why should school kids??? (Charge my AmEx acc’t.)

Find out what “Mosholu” means. (Don’t think it’s Jewish holiday.)

Office needs pizzazz! Have custom of Mayoral sash revived, run up mine, print “Mayor Mike” on it, big. (Put somebody on copyrighting/trademarking “Mayor Mike.” Sashes could catch on!)

Change City Council to Board of Directors. My kind of guys.

Even better idea for Jack Welch: City C.F.O. Let all those budget-busting ward-heelers go mano a mano against Neutron Jack!!

Soho, Dumbo–why not Bloombo, colorful Upper East Side investment banker/C.E.O./high-roller colony where Mayor Mike hangs? Boutique banks, cigar bars, Provençale takeout–the works!

Mayoral helicopter official name: Mayorchopper One? Whirlyberg? Mike-O-Copter? Mission 1: find where Governors, Rikers, Ellis, Randalls, Roosevelt Islands are (bring photog!). Idea: Mayor Mike lands on Governors for surprise visit to Pataki!

Declare April 15 “Mayor Mike Day.” Something to cheer folks up at tax time! (Refinement: those filing extensions not eligible to take day off. Sharp top execs plug loopholes!)

Q: Is Harlem a river or a place? Need answer, pronto!

Show voters that all the campaign stuff about creating jobs was no bull–have my company hire more people!

Get early sainthood for Rudy because a) he can’t refuse, b) press conferences, ribbon-cuttings, guest-speaker shots, etc. off-limits for saints.

Effective top execs run lean machines. Idea: fire self as Mayor and do job as unpaid volunteer, use salary savings for TV spots about Mayor Mike the ruthless cost-cutter. No wonder I’m a billionaire!

Stop decades of wrangling in its tracks: Mayor Mike buys West Side Highway and moves it to Nassau County. So screwed-up they won’t even notice!

Clarify political affiliation to end confusion. Call myself Republocrat? Demolican? Maybe start new one-man Mayor Mike Party.

Put Mayoral campaign-finance reform at top of Mayor Mike agenda. Main thrust: strict $60 million ceiling. Best top execs don’t fudge!

Q: Which one is the Triborough Bridge? (Always confuses me.) Where is Triborough? Thought there were only five boroughs. Staff not leveling with Mayor Mike? Ferret out slackers–crackerjack top execs have ace teams!

Time-saving, cont’d: run don’t walk in St. Patty’s, other big parades. In case of Mayor Mike hamstring etc., check how fast limo can get from 34th to 96th on Fifth. (P.S., doesn’t Fifth run south?? Should know. Note to self: get out & about more!)

Most-admired top execs keep tight schedules. Idea: Take-A-Number system for Mayoral visitors. Pope, Queen Elizabeth, Prez, etc. miffed? Put soda machine in outer office. Fortune 500 top execs always detail-oriented: remind staff it has to give correct change for foreign bills. Does Mayor Mike have to think of everything???

–Bruce McCall How to Learn to Stop Worrying … and Love the Vegetarian Meatloaf