Patrick Vaccariello is the chef at Harry’s Café, Harry’s Steak, and Gold St., the new 24-hour financial district diner where kobe beef sliders and toro scallion maki meet BLT wraps and Belgian waffles. Vaccariello grew up in an Italian/Dutch family in Pelham Bay and later lived in Rhode Island. Now he says he can’t imagine leaving New York. “Well, maybe I could retire there, you know, when I’m too old to work 14-hour days,” he said of the “Ocean State,” adding that he’s a Cancer and loves water. It turns out the chef would head to the shore for his fantasy last meal, too.
So, is it supposed to be a last meal in a restaurant or at home?
It’s anything you want. You could travel around the world, or bring back some long-dead chef to cook for you if you want. Wow.
Well, I can’t necessarily make it happen, but I can write it down. Right. Well, I would want a fisherman’s–style baked, stuffed lobster. When I say “fisherman’s–style,” I mean stuffed with scallops, shrimp, crabmeat, and the lobster meat itself. And of course I would want to eat with my closest friends and family.
Did you grow up eating this kind of thing? Well, I used to work in Rhode Island on the shore, and that would be a really popular dish during summer. Also, it’s pretty lavish.
Where would you eat it? On the beach? Oh, yeah. On the beach.
Sounds real good. You’re invited!
Thanks! But I hope you’re not on death row. What would you drink? A Joseph Phelps Chardonnay. And for dessert, blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream. And what kind of wine would I drink with that?
I don’t know. I was gonna say a sauterne, but that’s too sweet. How about a fruity Beaujolais.
OK, and would you cook the meal yourself? I think I’d have it cooked for me.
Hey, you deserve it. Well, is that it? Anything to start? Well, you know, let’s start with a watermelon salad with pine nuts, arugula, and feta cheese.
Whoa. You were pretty all-American until just now. Is that on the menu at one of the restaurants? Yeah, Harry’s Café. We started making it last summer. It gives you good feelings all over.
Read on for the recipe!
Watermelon, Pine nut & Arugula Salad with Feta Cheese
For the Salad:
Red Wine Vinaigrette
8 long, thin slices of red or yellow seedless watermelon, rind removed
½ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup chiffonade of fresh mint
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 pints baby arugula
salt and pepper to taste
For the Vinaigrette:
(makes a large batch)
1 liter ruby red port
23 ounces cranberry juice
7 shallots roasted at 300 degrees and deglazed with one cup of water
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
16 ounces red wine vinegar
1 quart olive oil
Combine port wine and cranberry juice and reduce over medium heat until reduced to ½ quart. Puree the shallots in a blender with reduced port and cranberry mix. Transfer to mixing bowl with the mustard. Whisk in vinegar and slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Arrange thin slices of watermelon on chilled plates. Put arugula in a bowl, toss with salt, pepper, mint, and red wine vinaigrette. Top watermelon with arugula. Garnish with feta cheese and pine nuts. Serve immediately.