I am writing this from an airplane somewhere between Seattle and Newark, en route to my in-law’s house for Thanksgiving. I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for you today, but the view is very nice, and I can offer you that, at least. If you squint hard enough, the wing of the plane looks a little like a dolphin tail, so it’s really two pictures in one. I hope you will find it a fair exchange.
My heart stopped for a second, just typing that.
When I met him about 3 ½ years ago, Brandon was a graduate student in music composition. Actually, if we’re getting down to the nitty-gritties, he was a graduate student in music composition until last March, when he went on leave to focus on the restaurant full-time. It may seem like a strange transition to make, but he has been working in restaurants since he was a teenager, and cooking isn’t all that different, conceptually, from writing music. The work itself is certainly not the same, but both are creative processes, ways of taking separate elements and arranging them, balancing and tweaking, to make something new. Anyway, those of us who know him – which, in a sense, includes all of you – know that he loves food. The man can run circles around me in the kitchen. I like to cook, yes, but he is a cook.
He is also obsessed with pizza. As a grade-schooler, he used to go to a pizzeria near his parents’ house in New Jersey and pepper the owner with questions about dough and mozzarella. When I met him, he lived on the Upper West Side, but he trekked out to the middle of Brooklyn at least once a week to wait patiently in line at DiFara. Last year, he agreed to drive a car from San Antonio to Los Angeles just so he could try the pizza at Mozza, and he took an overnight trip to Phoenix for the sole purpose of eating at Pizzeria Bianco. So when he told me that he wanted to make pizza, it didn’t exactly surprise me. It may have scared me a little, but it didn’t surprise me.
The wheels have been in motion for quite a while – over a year, I think – but he signed a lease on Friday, so we feel ready now to say something here. We wanted to go ahead and share it with you, because we’re excited. And also, you know, a little scared, which seems only sane. But mainly, we’re excited. I hesitate to say too much today, but I can tell you that the restaurant will be here in Seattle, in our neighborhood. The windows are covered with plastic right now, and the door is kind of garish and wonky, but it’ll be prettier soon, I promise. If you squint hard enough, you might get a sense of it. Or see a dolphin tail. You never know.
I say that the restaurant is Brandon’s, because it is: it’s his baby, his vision, his sweat. But I will be there too, helping where I can, and the menu, which I can’t wait to show you, is a real combination of his style and mine. It is inspired by two of our favorite restaurants: Zuni Café, in San Francisco, and Boat Street Café and Kitchen, where Brandon has worked for the past two and a half years, since he moved to Seattle. It happens, yes, that the emphasis will be on pizza, but there will also be wood-fired vegetables from local farmers, seasonal salads, charcuterie, and rustic desserts, the kind I like to make at home. I can’t wait.
There is a lot of work ahead, no doubt, but he plans to open in the springtime. Hopefully early spring, though we’ll see. My book comes out on March 3, so our heads are sort of exploding at the moment. But don’t worry! We have a lot of help. Susan Kaplan of Boat Street has been a hugely generous mentor, and our friend Carla Leonardi of Café Lago has spent hours with us at the oven and in the kitchen. And my brother David, who owns five(!) restaurants in the DC area, calls to check in and field questions and cheer, which makes me so happy that I feel kind of weepy right now.
I know there are a lot of details missing from this story, but I will tell you more as I can. In the meantime, thank you, always, for being here, and for believing in me, in him, and in us. I’ll see you back here on December 8, once we’ve had time to take some deep breaths, sleep in, cook Thanksgiving dinner, wander around New York and eat pizza, and get ready for what comes next.