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Frankie Lasagna back in the kitchen at Italian restaurant after viral baseball moment

TORONTO — Of all the days for Frankie Lasagna's pizza cook to miss work, a sick day on Thursday was less than ideal.
Fans react as New York Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge (99) rounds first base after hitting his 61st home run of the season, a two-run shot, against the Toronto Blue Jays during seventh inning American League MLB baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Lupul

TORONTO — Of all the days for Frankie Lasagna's pizza cook to miss work, a sick day on Thursday was less than ideal.

Lasagna was busy preparing for dinner service at his Toronto restaurant while juggling a steady stream of media requests throughout the day after his viral moment at Rogers Centre a night earlier.

"I have to make pizzas today, which is not a problem, but it's just a lot more hectic (with) everything that happened last night," Lasagna said with a laugh when reached by phone.

Video clips, memes and stories of Lasagna coming a few feet short of snagging Aaron Judge's 61st home run ball quickly made the online rounds Wednesday night and through the next day.

"It's the most messages and people texting me and calling me, more (messages) than I've ever gotten," Lasagna said. "More than my wedding day, the birth of my kids. It's been wild for me."

Lasagna, 37, did a wave of interviews with radio and television stations on Thursday morning and had more booked for later in the day, he said.

Judge tied a long-standing American League single-season record with his homer in New York's 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Lasagna was one of a few spectators in the front row of the stadium's 100 level who had a chance to snag the valuable baseball.

The ball hit the wall just below them and bounced into the Toronto bullpen and was later given to Judge.

The story of the near-catch, coupled with Lasagna's unusual surname and the fact he happens to own an Italian restaurant, sent the baseball social media world ablaze.

"It's been great. I love the chirps, I love the funny comments," he said. "I have big humour in me so I love seeing them."

He described the last 24 hours as a whirlwind.

"It's been crazy and it's been wild," he said. "But it's been cool and it's been fun. I've been loving chatting with all the different outlets and people.

"Hearing them say my name is always cool. I'm sure it puts a smile on my parents' faces."

Phil and Cathy Lasagna still help out at the family restaurant in the city's west end while son Frankie handles day-to-day operations. The surname makes for a regular talking point with customers.

"Almost every other day someone will come in the restaurant, read the (family) story on the menu, see my last name and not believe it," Frankie said. "It makes for a good conversation piece."

And then there is the menu at the Terrazza restaurant. It has a wide variety of Italian dishes you'd expect, but surprisingly no lasagna.

Lasagna said he hated the dish growing up and still doesn't like it to this day.

"The hard noodle on top sometimes just never appealed to me," he said. "And if your last name is Lasagna, you've got to have a kick-ass lasagna on your menu. You can't just have a mediocre lasagna.

"I don't have that recipe, hence, no lasagna on the menu."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press