A first-generation Albanian-American, Mark Camaj’s culinary journey began in the vibrant neighborhoods of Hamtramck and Sterling Heights on metro Detroit’s east side. With a deep-rooted passion for Italian-American cuisine, Mark’s love for food was greatly influenced by his family and upbringing.
“For me, Italian food has always been my heart,” he explains. “I can’t do Albanian food at the level I’d like to, but I can incorporate it into Italian.”
Having worked for James Beard Award-winning chefs Andrew Carmellini and Marco Canora in New York City, Mark’s skills and appreciation for diverse flavors and techniques blossomed. The Bronx became his second home, where he developed a deep connection to the vibrant community.
“I’ve still got a lot of family out there and always look forward to visiting,” he says. “I just love the vibe out there. Albanians kind of took the place of where Italians were there 50 years ago.”
Returning to Detroit to launch the highly acclaimed SheWolf Pastificio with high school friend Chef Anthony Lombardo, Chef Mark’s culinary expertise helped the restaurant garner national attention.
Chef’s latest venture, Nora’s Famous, is a reflection of his diverse experiences and culinary roots.
“Nora’s is a mashup of where I’ve been,” he says, citing the east-side suburbs of Detroit and his time in The Bronx.
His dedication to quality and innovation is evident in his carefully crafted pizzas, which he perfected through countless iterations.
Using the finest ingredients, such as fresh-milled flour from Janie’s Mill and mozzarella pulled fresh every day, Mark’s pizzas are truly unique.
“If I had to describe it, there’s nothing like it around here,” he explains. “It’s like a Pasquale Jones flavor, maybe a Lucali. For the locals, Supino’s in New Center — but done my way.”
With an upcoming restaurant near the M1 Concourse set to open in 2023, Mark envisions an approachable neighborhood spot where people can gather for any occasion.
“I want it to be a neighborhood everyday restaurant where you can celebrate an occasion or just get a nice bowl of pasta and a pizza and a good glass of wine,” he says.
As the executive chef, Chef Mark is eager to share his unique vision and unwavering love for Italian-American cuisine with guests.
Follow Chef Mark Camaj on Instagram @marknoshi and Nora’s Famous @norasfamous.