Wonder of wonders
Well, the bad news is that I seem to have fallen into a black hole called Delancey.
But the good news is that we’re open. And that Brandon and I are still alive! And that somehow, people are coming to our little restaurant! And, get this: I actually managed to take a picture of one of the pizzas. Wonder of wonders! I can die happy now. No, really, right now. I’m tired.
This particular pizza looks sort of cockeyed and misshapen, but please bear with me. (Secretly, I like them that way.) It also looks small, because it’s sitting on a huge metal plate. In person, it’s our normal size, I swear, which is to say about 12 inches in diameter. This pie was a test run one afternoon, when Brandon bought a case of padron chiles and was trying to decide how to use them. He tossed them with olive oil and gray salt, roasted them in a skillet in the wood-fired oven, and then stemmed them and tore them into strips. They’re medium-hot – enough to make your lips burn, but not incendiary – and the best part is, they have a huge amount of flavor on top of that heat. Maybe this is a useless comparison, but they remind me of some green chiles that I once had on a cheeseburger in Albuquerque. (I have a soft spot for New Mexico.) Anyway, Brandon put his roasted padrons on top of a pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, aged mozzarella, and Grana Padano. It’s on the menu now, and we call it the “Padron.” That’s about as creative as our naming scheme gets around here.
It’s hard to say how these first weeks have gone, because we’re still so much in the thick of it. We’ve been running on adrenaline, for the most part. But it’s gone as smoothly as I could have hoped, I think. There have been glitches to work out in the kitchen, and a certain amount of slowness, and a few requisite catastrophes: refrigerators breaking, exhaust fans not working, beer taps not working, my head almost exploding, and so on. But people are coming in to eat, and we get to cook for them, and that’s what this is about. When everything goes right, and when people leave happy, it feels better than almost anything. Last night was our tenth night open, and for the first time, just for a second, I was able to look around and smile at the people at the bar and think, Here we are. We’re actually doing this.
Before we started this process, I understood on a cerebral level that people in the restaurant industry work hard, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I somehow didn’t realize that Brandon and I would be at Delancey from 9 am to 1 am the next day, every day, or that we would be on our feet for 95% of that time. Granted, we are very, very inefficient right now, and we have a lot to fix and learn and decide and improve, but there are certain parts of this work that won’t change. Like the fact that many of our vendors deliver at nine in the morning, and that someone has to be there to meet them. And the fact that the dough has to be made after service each night, around 11 pm. And after the dough is made, the floor has to be swept and mopped. You would not believe how much flour winds up on the floor of a pizzeria. It will not be controlled. I think it actually breeds at night, while we sleep. It’s devising a plot to take over the world. I’m sure of it.
I know that I have a tendency to make opening a restaurant sound about as fun as being eaten alive by a bear – and it does sometimes feel that way – but to be fair, I should tell you that there’s a lot of magic in it too. Like, for example, around four in the afternoon, when the servers start to set up the dining room. I wish you could be there. They set the tables, light the votives, and fill the water glasses, and on the surface, it seems like pretty routine stuff. But the room has this quiet hum to it, this sort of potential energy, that I find so peaceful. I look forward to it every day.
And there’s this table. Someday, when I get to eat in my own restaurant, I want to sit at this table in the window. I like to fantasize about it sometimes. It’s better, at least, than thinking about flour particles breeding.
Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a quote that I used to have written on a piece of paper on the wall near my desk. It was by the German poet Goethe, and I don’t know where I first heard it or where that piece of paper is now, but what it said was, “Do not hurry. Do not rest.”
I think about it almost every day. It’s only six words, but it sums up right now so well.