Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, a Marriage": Be ready to crave pizza

"There is something about Delancey that, to me, matters just as much: We get to make people happy.  We get to give people a good night. We get to spend our days doing work that we can be proud of, and when we're done, there's all the pizza you can eat."

I'm pretty sure I was the only kid who didn't go crazy over pizza.  Whenever my parents wanted to have a pizza night, I nicely requested for them to get me a sub instead.  I even lied in my 3rd grade class when I was interviewed by a high school student assigned to write a book about me.  The personalized book would include all of my favorite things.  When asked what my favorite food was I lied and said, "pizza" just because I knew that saying shrimp scampi would sound weird.  My parents owned a fine dining restaurant when I was in 3rd grade, so when all my friends were loving macaroni and cheese, I grew up on lobster tails and filet mignon.

Pizza was just never my thing, until I moved to the Chicago area and discovered the joys of Georgio's deep dish spinach pizza.  OMG.  It's glorious with just the right amount of cheese, and a thick layer of bright red sauce.  The spinach and onions offer a beautiful balance and the crust is light even though it's a deep dish. Something about the baked in cheese on top of the crust and then the layer of spinach,  topped by the sauce makes it irresistible.

I didn't know pizza could taste like this, but now that I know, I can't un-know it.  I'm still a liar when it comes to my 3rd grade biography, but at least now I get what all the fuss is about, so when I read Molly Wizenberg's memoir "Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage" I could relate and even crave the perfect pizza that her husband, Brandon set out to create.  Wizenberg is the critically acclaimed author of The New York Times bestseller "A Homemade Life" and she also created the blog "Orangette" voted the best food blog in the world.  In her memoir "Delancey" she reveals the back story of when she and her husband conceived the idea to open a restaurant, and not just any restaurant, but the perfect place to eat pizza that didn't feel like any old pizza joint, but felt instead like a dinner party with farm fresh ingredients and a simple menu.

Although Wizenberg didn't believe her husband Brandon would ever go through with his idea to open a restaurant and even supported his dream, when the reality of the hours, the unreliable employees, the pizza flour that got everywhere and required late night cleanings, the stress of not sleeping and having to contend with payroll and food ordering and pleasing the public set in, she understandably fell apart. I loved her candor about wanting to be involved in the kitchen and forcing herself to be who she wasn't and how unhappy it made her.  The tension between her and her husband grew thick, and only until they devised a transition plan to get her out of the kitchen did things start to gel.

Daunting.  That's the word I thought about when she described those unsure days after they opened their restaurant's doors to a pizza hungry crowd.  I was part of that as a child as my parents tried to run a successful fine dining restaurant.  The hours were crappy.  My two older sisters and I never saw them.  They were always stressed.  The employees stole food and whatever else they could get their hands on when my mom and dad weren't being vigilant, and the public is hard to please on a consistent basis.  Not knowing what you are doing and opening a restaurant are a lethal combination (if you ever watch Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Impossible, you know what I'm talking about), but Brandon and Molly stuck with the idea, figured out their roles (after trial and error) and went on to create a successful restaurant and even open a companion bar / restaurant later on.

Was it easy? No way, but nothing worth doing is ever really that easy.

If you know a foodie or a pizza lover or maybe even someone who really wants to open a restaurant, Wizenberg's candor and wit and especially her descriptions of the pizza pilgrimages she and her husband took across the country as research for their restaurant will entrance you and probably entice you to seek pizza either during or right after reading.

Happy reading and eating (pizza).

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