Yesterday, my mom took June to the aquarium, and Brandon and I spent the day at Dino’s Tomato Pie, hanging photographs and making lists, getting ready to open the day after tomorrow.
Like Delancey and Essex, Dino’s is owned by the two of us, but this business is more purely Brandon’s brainchild than either of the first two. I know I once said Delancey was Brandon’s baby, and then Essex was Brandon’s baby, but no, Dino’s is really, really, really Brandon’s baby. Dino’s – which is pronounced deeno, a shortened version of Brandino, the faux-talian nickname some of our friends have given Brandon – is a pizza tavern, modeled on the kind of place you find along the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s wood paneling and marbled Formica and a stripped-down menu, pizza and salad and well-stocked bar.
Brandon went into the project planning to outsource much more of it than we did with Delancey or Essex, to be better about delegating and not take on everything himself, but half the fun is in the muck of it, so he’s still there every day, up to his elbows. (And because opening businesses is not my strong suit, nope nope nooooo, aaah ha ha haaaaaaaa, my contribution to Dino’s has been mostly elsewhere: picking up slack at Delancey and Essex, and acting as Primary Parent until the insanity subsides and it’s my turn to do a big project.)
Brandon designed Dino’s with our friend Michael Riha, a general can-do person who will complete a Master’s in architecture this spring, and our friend Tom Clark, a contractor, finish carpenter, and loyal neighbor of Delancey. Tom did the overwhelming majority of the build-out, from demolition to trimwork to building the booths and restoring the original front doors, taking care that every detail was in its place. The bar and the fire exit, which I hope no one will ever see, were done by the good people of Metis Construction. Heliotrope was the official architect on the job. Brandon, Michael, and Tom began pounding out the plans early last summer, huddled around a table in the window at Delancey, and oddly, they still seem to enjoy each other’s company today, though Brandon and Michael did have a pretty contentious arm-wrestling match last week.
Dino’s is across town from Delancey and Essex, and from our house. It’s at the corner of Denny and Olive, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. That fact brings with it plenty of challenges (Capitol Hill parking! cross-town traffic! CAPITOL HILL PAAAAAAARKIIIIIIING), but on the upside, we get to share the block with our friend Rachel Marshall, reigning queen of ginger beer, who owns the bar Montana; our friend Monica Dimas, who owns the nighttime sandwich shop Tortas Condesa; baker extraordinaire Neil Robertson, who owns Crumble & Flake; and the good Kevin Burzell and Alysson Wilson of Kedai Makan. We lucked into an historic brick building with tall ceilings and big windows, for which our friend Sam wrote and designed window signage, which our friend Natalie, who is married to Michael, then installed.
Sam also designed the Dino’s website. And Natalie’s friend Cristina Victor painted a giant mural in the back hallway, with nudes of all shapes. I plan to tell everyone that the reclining redhead in the foreground is me, though I will now rush to clarify here that she is not me. If you’re standing in front of the mural and look down, you’ll see that the floor is spangled with gold confetti, thrown by Michael.
Dino’s will be open seven days a week, from 4:00 pm until 2:00 am. It’s a bar, first and foremost, and that means that it’s 21 and over. We’ll be making the pizza in a brick oven, powered by gas, and you can order it in two different styles: a round pie, which is in the same style as Delancey’s, but 18 inches in diameter, rather than 12; or a square pie, or Sicilian pie, which is baked in a pan, a little thicker and crisp on the bottom and corners. With your pizza, you can get a salad, if you want something green: the “regular” salad is romaine with our garlicky “Jersey” dressing, and the “fancy” salad is wild arugula, shaved fennel, and Fra’Mani soppressata. Dessert is Valrhona chocolate feves, sold by the ounce. Bar-wise, we have nitrogen negronis on tap(!), 11 beers on tap, Ferrari shots (Campari, Fernet Branca, and vermouth, rawr), and of course wine, more beer, and a full selection of other booze, whatever you’re into. I’m into negronis on tap.
As with Delancey and Essex, Dino’s gave Brandon plenty of opportunities to indulge his love for eBay and for thrifting. We hope you will enjoy the statuettes above the bar, the light fixtures, the naugahyde bar stools, the red leather chairs.
On the walls, you’ll see old photographs from our families, plus a few shots of one of Brandon’s old dance teachers, when she was on Broadway. Look out for Brandon’s prom photo! His aunt Joellen and uncle Tom on their wedding day! My beautiful uncle Jerry in a “GAY FATHERS” t-shirt! My dad in an ad for a friend’s Volvo dealership! My mom and Barbara Fretwell, making Aunt Bill’s Candy!
Dino’s will open to the public this Wednesday. It’s almost there. Thanks, always, for giving us the opportunity to do work we can be proud of, and a reason to do what we do.
Whoa. I got sucked into a black hole for a bit there, a (very pleasant, very festive) black hole of weddings and out-of-town visitors. Somehow it’s now September 26, and I’m glad to be alone tonight, in a quiet house, with a so-so brownie that I’ll probably eat anyway, rain falling outside and all the lamps lit. Hello! Or, OH–LO!, as June puts it. In the weeks since I was last here, Megan and Sam got married, and Gemma and Christophe came to help us celebrate, and after that, my in-laws arrived, and now we’ve got a cousin from New York and her boyfriend in the guest-room-slash-dungeon downstairs. And because there is no one who doesn’t like tacos, for the past three…Read more
A couple of weekends ago, we packed up the better part of the restaurant kitchen, crammed it in the back of a pick-up, and drove two and a half hours east to cook an all-day anniversary party for a pair of longtime Delancey regulars. We rented a big house along the Wenatchee River, about ten minutes from the property where the party was held, and we brought as many people as we could fit inside, including a set of 8-month-old twins and one almost-two-year-old June. If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth in the summertime, you will remember how hot it gets. It hit 100 that weekend, and no one had air conditioning. The flies were out and biting. But the…Read more
I’m typing this post from my cousin’s kitchen table in Oakland, California, where June and I are visiting for a family baby shower and have stayed long enough to eat four slices of red velvet cake, get stuck twice in rush hour traffic on I-80, and sniff every single rose in Rockridge while out walking the neighborhood at 6:49 in the morning, killing time before the rest of the family wakes up. We fly home tomorrow, and then, on Tuesday, I leap into that heady, unnerving thing called Publication Day, otherwise known The Day Your Copy of Delancey Will Finally Ship, If You Pre-Ordered It, or, The Day You Can Find It In Your Local Bookstore, If You Didn’t. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah!…Read more
I am typing this post from the back office at Delancey, where I’m holed up, working on a deadline, while Brandon and Co. prepare a five-course meal for forty-five in celebration of a gorgeous new book. Deadline: I will destroy you. In more ways than one. But I had to take a break to pop into this space, and to send up a cheer – if you can, in fact, hear me from back here behind the Essex walk-in – that it has been nine years today since this site was born. Nine! I was a delinquent graduate student then, giddy to be creating a space to write about things other than Michel Foucault and discourse analysis and anything described…Read more
You women who manage to keep up smart, articulate blogs while raising young children? You women who manage to keep up smart, articulate blogs while working and raising young children and doing all that household stuff that most of us wind up doing? I throw myself at your feet. I don’t have anything remotely original or insightful to say on the subject; I just think you’re remarkable. I have childcare twelve hours a week, jobs with flexible hours, a supportive spouse, and a kid who (usually) sleeps well (please don’t let this jinx me, please don’t let this jinx me), and yet I fight to get to this space. Of course, part of the problem could be that, each night,…Read more
June is six months old. She has two teeth, monstrous thighs, and is my favorite person in the world. Totally predictable, I know, but I really never thought I would say that about someone who spends most of the day drooling and pulling my hair. Sometimes she looks at me tenderly, places a dimpled hand on either side of my face, and then lunges forward, giggling, and savagely bites my nose. She suits me so well. Really, she’s perfect for me. We have a rhythm. I sent my revised manuscript to my editor in the final days of February. A few days later, we lost our manager at Delancey and Essex. Though losing a staff member always makes me and Brandon…Read more
I MADE IT! By which I mean, I managed to not go into labor before, in the middle of, or in the days immediately following the opening of Essex. VICTORY. I imagine that I will very soon start cursing the fact that I am still pregnant, but for now, I feel like I should be given a medal, or a cocktail. Since neither is a viable option, I made myself a pan of flapjacks and ate a quarter of it in one sitting. I haven’t written a lot about Essex here, not because it has felt like any less of a big deal than Delancey, but because the first half of this year, which was when the project began to move forward,…Read more
Hi, all. I’ve received a number of concerned e-mails and comments in the past few days, wondering if the quiet around here meant that the baby has arrived, so let me say first: NO BABY YET. I am, however, in my 36th week of pregnancy. And as of about ten days ago, I finished writing the manuscript for my next book – or this draft of it, anyway. There’s still plenty of revising and hand-wringing to do, but at least I now have something to improve upon. And Essex, the bar we’re putting in next door to Delancey, is opening in less than a week. (!) Lots of Big Life Stuff. Huge Life Stuff. Giant Life Stuff. Oddly enough, or…Read more
Last night I went to the grocery store for milk and yogurt and the usuals, and the cashier smiled and commented on how much my belly has grown since she last rang me up. For the past couple of months, each time I’ve gone grocery shopping, no matter who my cashier is, he or she has asked about my progress and said a few nice words. I don’t know any of these people. No idea what their names are. A few of them might have been to Delancey, since it’s in the same neighborhood, but I don’t think that’s it. I think they know me by the round appendage on the front of my body. I hadn’t expected to like being…Read more
Delancey is one year old today. I took that picture, the one above, 16 months ago. Brandon had bought a 30-quart Hobart mixer a few months earlier, and we’d been storing it in our friend Carla’s basement. Our friend Sam named it Sir Mix-a-Lot. That morning, the morning that I took the picture, we had rented a big truck, wrestled Sir Mix-a-Lot into the back, strapped him in, and hauled him to the restaurant. The thing was so heavy, such a mess to move, and I had no idea how to operate it, and I was excited and intimidated and borderline terrified, and mostly, more than anything, I had no clue how we were ever going to get this restaurant…Read more
Well. It’s hard to know where to start. I’m tempted to jump right in, to say that you should hurry up and put a pot on the stove and make the pasta recipe below and let’s get back to business, shall we?, but that doesn’t seem right. First, I need to thank you. I had no idea that Delancey would swallow me up like that, and I need to thank you for being so patient, so supportive, so good to me. This restaurant is up and running today because of you. I am not kidding around about that. I am also not kidding around when I say this: I’m ready to get back to writing. I can’t imagine not having…Read more
This morning, someone pointed out to me that it has been a month, exactly a month, a whole month, since I last posted here. I nearly choked. The truth is, I’ve been having a hard time. Nothing around here looks the same as it did, pre-restaurant, and to be perfectly honest, though I like this new life, I also miss the old one. There’s no point in trying to hide it. I’ve been dealing with a lot of exhaustion, and it’s been difficult to feel creative, eager to cook and write here – or do pretty much anything except watch Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. It’s a dire situation when you go to the dentist, as I did this morning, and…Read more
So, I wasn’t kidding about the black hole. But I’m sorry to have been gone from here for so long. I’ve missed you. Delancey is getting easier. As of two weeks ago, we now have a prep cook to work in the mornings, which means that instead of going in at 9 am to receive the first deliveries, Brandon can now go in around 11 am, and I go in sometime between noon and 2 pm, depending on the day’s prep list. We still get home around midnight, but it feels a lot easier than it did a couple of weeks ago. We’re getting more sleep, for one thing, but even more importantly, we know what to expect now. That’s…Read more
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…Read more
It’s very peaceful at Delancey right now. I’m going to try to remember what this feels like. Wait. Is the art in this photo crooked, or is it just me? Maybe my eyes are crooked. Anything is possible. Delancey opens tonight at five. There’s no signage outside the building yet, but that’ll be fixed soon. It’s at the top of our to-do list. In the meantime, for those of you in the Seattle area, maybe this map will help you find us? Our address is 1415 NW 70th Street. (It might be helpful, too, to know that we’re one block north of Ballard High School, directly across the street from a bar called Tarasco, and right next to Honore Bakery.)…Read more
I meant to post this last Friday. You can see how well I did with that. I also meant to take a picture of some pizza, since that’s what this whole business is about, but that didn’t work out either. The cook we hired to help Brandon with the pizzas didn’t show up for his first official day of work – the day before our first pre-opening dinner – which has left only Brandon and me in the kitchen. That means that I do my work at my station, run over to his station to help top and finish pizzas, and then run back to my station again. This has not left much time for photography – or breathing, or…Read more
So, Delancey is opening its doors on Wednesday, August 12, at 5:00 pm. I’m a little short on words to describe how I feel about that, but maybe this picture will give you some idea. Brandon feels pretty much the same, I think. Maybe with a touch of queasy on top. Or maybe I’m just projecting. Hard to say. Nah, actually, we’re very, very excited. This is the part that we’ve been waiting for. It’s been a long time coming, and though I don’t know that we’ll ever feel completely ready, we’re close. Or close enough. I just hope we get some sleep sometime soon, because apparently, I’m already having a hard time keeping my eyes open. And we’re in…Read more
I am pleased to report that we are finally approaching the part of this restaurant thing when we actually get to cook. It’s kind of amazing. The construction is essentially done. There are some details left to complete, like installing acoustic paneling (to cut down on noise), hanging art and mirrors, and setting up the computer system, but we’re very close. Two of our construction workers – I’m not going to say who (rhymes with “Holly” and “Mandon”) – accidentally glued an eight-foot-tall chalkboard to the floor on Sunday, but it’s okay. It came up easily enough. We’re really very close. And we still seem to remember how to cook, which is promising, since that’s the whole point. About ten…Read more
I’ve got to hand it to you people. You really know how to welcome a girl back. Thank you. I have so many things to tell you about, but sitting down to do it is not so easy. Last week was a blur of pizza-testing, potential staff-interviewing, convection-oven buying, and kitchen-rearranging, and then on Saturday evening, just as we were rounding up a long day of errands, Brandon gashed the side of his thumb on a sheet of stainless steel in a home improvement store. I looked down at his hand for an instant, just long enough to see a lot of blood, and then I gave him a Kleenex and proceeded to quietly hyperventilate. Clearly, he was going to…Read more
Well. That took a little longer than I expected. Thank you for hanging in there, and even more, for being so understanding. I missed you all, and I missed being here. I was having a pretty rough time a couple of months ago. You could probably see it more clearly, actually, than I could. I have never, ever, done something as consuming as this opening-a-restaurant business. Even writing a book doesn’t compare. People had warned us that projects like these always take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect them to, and dude, that is Seriously. No. Joke. It’s been like Little Shop of Horrors over here, only the role of Audrey II, the man-eating plant,…Read more
Restaurant-wise, we are entering what I call Crackdown Mode. That sounds sort of scary, I realize, as though it might involve body armor and high-tech weaponry, but what it actually means is even scarier. It means that this restaurant, this Delancey thing, is now a full-time job. Not just for Brandon, but for me, too. It feels good. It feels good to be caught up in its momentum, pulled along by something so tangible and so big. But it also feels like diving into a murky pool, enormous and very deep, and I can’t see a damned thing. I know I have to jump in, and I want to jump in, but let me tell you, it is dark down…Read more
We are long overdue, I think, for a Restaurant Day. So much so, actually, that I’m not sure where to start. But I guess the front door is as good a place as any. I know I haven’t mentioned it around here much lately, but The Thing That Will One Day Be Delancey marches on, slowly but surely. With emphasis, I guess I should say, on the slowly part. We are doing this on a very slim budget, which means that most of the work is done with our four hands – mainly Brandon’s, actually, to be perfectly fair – and with borrowed labor, borrowed pickup trucks, and borrowed tools from friends and family. I can’t imagine doing it any…Read more
I would like to sit down here today and write as though everything were normal, as though I were actually capable of forming complete sentences. But the truth is, I am an absolute maniac. Tomorrow is the official release date for my book, a day that I never really trusted would come, and I feel alternately so ecstatic and so freaked out that I can’t decide whether I need to run around the block a few dozen times or lie down for a nap. In the meantime, I will eat some sweet potato pound cake. As you can see, that’s been my fallback position for a few days now. Many of you have written already(!) to say that you have…Read more