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Lucky Lasagna, Chef and Tattoo Artist

I’m Lucky Lasagna. I’m a chef, tattooer and happy man from Aprilia, a seaside town near Rome. I’ve been living in Shanghai for six years. I work as a chef consultant and own a tattoo parlor with my partner Giulio Ballammostro, an Italian creative director for a fashion brand.

Lucky Lasagna is a pseudonym inspired by Italian and American mafia names. It was one of my graffiti tags. I was living in a place in Italy where Lasagna is a family name. So I chose it because it sounds funny.

I get bored very easily, so my life has been full of changes. I studied anthropology but ended up working in advertising as a copywriter and art director. I’ve had some interesting clients indeed, like Ducati, Ferrari, and Maserati. But life in front of a computer, my God, it can kill you! So I started to cook.

As every Italian chef would tell you, it all starts at home. My first memory as a kid is of my aunties, my mother, and my grandmother, all cooking together. Then I also started to cook. At first, it was only among friends, as a hobby. But one day I did it for a special occasion: a friend in advertising had to entertain and sign with a potential client. Everything had to be in private and secretive. She bought a chef's uniform for me and, of course, I did it!

It happened that I became a home chef, doing meal planning. My cooking partner and I became very popular in Italy; we had two BMW motorbikes and would travel around the country with what we needed to cook. Buying seafood near Genoa, hopping on the bikes and cooking on the snow, near Austria, for example. We did it for a few years.

Meanwhile, I was also painting and tattooing. I was doing graffiti on train carriages and anywhere else I could. I still paint here in China, but only on legal walls. As for tattooing, I bought my first coil tattoo machine when I was 24 and I still use it to this day.

However, at some point, my life took a dark turn and became a big piece of shit for many reasons. When it happened, I gave myself two options: go to work remotely on a boat or move far away, to the other side of the world. By chance, one of these bad days I was reading the news online when a pop-up of a dating website appeared with a photo of a smiling Chinese lady. It gave me such a good feeling! She studied in Italy and spoke the language, so we started to write to each other. Now she’s my wife, Nora. I came to Shanghai to be with her.

At first, I worked for the Australian chef David Laris. He was one of the first to bring fine dining to the city. We worked together at the Fat Olive (now closed). After that, I went to work for a few different restaurants, like The Press and the first Blackbird. At some point, I was managing 25 people and all the logistics of a kitchen. It was non-stop work.

Currently, I'm working as a private chef and consultant. The basis for innovation in food is tradition, so I enjoy mixing Italian and Asian traditional ingredients. I've been playing a lot with umami, the lesser-known of the basic tastes. I'm working on a teriyaki marinated mozzarella, with pork belly and umami sauce. Mmmm!

I get my Asian ingredients from those wonderful wet markets where you can find all kinds of stuff. I've been buying a lot of bamboo lately. As for the Italian ingredients, I get them from suppliers. But, like any laowai, I often go to Avocado Lady on Wulumuqi Lu. It's easy and fun.

I quit being a resident chef to spend more time with my four-year-old son, Enea. I decided to take tattooing seriously. I first opened a hybrid of tattoo studio and kitchen on Huashan Lu. I enjoyed it, but people thought it was not hygienic. It surprised me because there were two different rooms dedicated to each activity, I mean, I was not cutting onions and tattooing people at the same time, you know?!

Then I opened this second studio along with my partner Giulio. No Way Back Tattoo is a unique place with good, happy, loving vibes! We receive other tattooers from all over the world as guests. We also love the history and culture of tattoos, and visitors feel that. As always, hygiene is a primary concern. We work respecting the European and American standards, everything is sterile and disposable. Every color we use is certified. Tattooing is cutting people, after all: the needles go inside the third layer of your derma. You can’t mess around with that.

We also value the experience of our visitors. Getting a tattoo is like a rite of passage: your body is sacred, given to you by your mother and God. You decide to change it by facing pain, which reminds you that you are human, and when everything is finally finished you feel stronger.

I still go crazy from jail tattoos! They are so powerful. I like tattoos with inner energy and emotion, like the sailor tattoos, with their thick, black line, short shading, and flat colors. I also love the traditional ones, like the Japanese and Polynesian tattoos. These were designed a long time ago to follow the shape of the body and to maintain their beauty.

For me, it’s all about the emotion. I've been getting tattoos done by people I love. I don't care if they don't know how to make it. I have one that was the first tattoo a friend made—I guided him a little bit and it worked out. The next one will be from my wife, also her first. She’s tattooing a drawing made by my son. At first, it was gonna be a snail because he was into drawing snails before, but now he’s crazy for trains, so I’m guessing that’s what I’ll get.

Sometimes people ask me to tattoo the motto ‘Never Give Up.’ I don't like it, because I simply don't believe in it. It's okay to give up. It's part of life. If giving up means changing and doing something different, you can always do it. Look at me, I’m a lot different from ten years ago. And that’s fine. It’s all about going with the waves and the flow of life.

To see more of Lucky's tattoo work, visit his Instagram here.


[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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