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Tony Messina

Born and raised in East Boston, Tony Messina spent countless hours in his grandparents’ kitchens cooking elaborate Italian feasts as a young boy and has been a fixture on the line in Boston restaurants since he began working as a caterer and cook at fourteen. After a stint shucking oysters and mixing drinks at Legal Seafoods, Tony joined the team at Michael Schlow’s newly opened Alta Strada, where he pulled double duty as a line cook and head server learning the ins and outs of the restaurant world.  

Tony decided to formalize his culinary training and attend the Cambridge Culinary School. During this time, he staged at some of the best restaurants in Boston, including Radius, Hamersley’s Bistro, Salts, No. 9 Park and Clio. He graduated as valedictorian of his class and returned to Alta Strada as Sous Chef. The food at Alta Strada really spoke to Tony’s heritage – simple, clean Italian food using only the best ingredients. When Tony heard that Barbara Lynch would be opening a true fine dining restaurant in Boston, he was eager to be a part of the opening and hone his appreciation of haute cuisine. In 2010, he joined the opening team of Menton as Chef de Partie. The food was concise allowing the very few ingredients on the plate to truly shine. Long a fan of Japanese cuisine and its nuanced artistry, Tony began his search to find the best sushi restaurant in Boston. He heard time and time again that AKA Bistro was pushing the boundaries of traditional sashimi. He called Chef/Owner Chris Chung (an alumni of Uni Sashimi Bar) and asked if he had any openings. He joined the team as Chris’ Sashimi Assistant in 2011, eventually becoming the Assistant Sashimi Chef himself. At AKA Bistro, there were no limits to what sashimi could be, drawing inspiration from France, Italy, Spain and even America. Tony’s next move brought him to Ken Oringer’s Uni Sashimi where he was named Chef de Cuisine in September 2012. At Uni, he utilized flavors from around the world to create dishes using both classic and modern techniques, Japanese ingredients and Mediterranean influence. In 2016, the intimate sashimi bar expanded into the former Clio space to become a full scale Japanese restaurant serving inventive Asian cuisine highlighting fresh seafood with innovative sashimi and sushi offerings, and utilizing far-flung flavors and ingredients in street food-inspired dishes.  

With the expansion of UNI, Tony took on the role of Executive Chef and Partner alongside his business partner, Ken Oringer. In 2017, Chef Messina was named a semifinalist in the James Beard Awards’ Best Chef: Northeast category, and in 2018 he was named a Best Chef: Northeast nominee. Also in 2018, Boston magazine named Tony “Best Outstanding Chef” in their annual Best of Boston issue, and UNI was ranked number one in Boston Magazine’s coveted 50 Best Restaurants issue. In 2019, Chef Messina won the coveted James Beard Award Best Chef, Northeast.