Where to begin here. 7,500 words by (sometime SOTC contributor and friend) Sam McPheeters on an old bandmate who just happens to have become a major force in New York dining. Topics covered include the weird agony of seeing someone you knew in a past life successfully do something wildly different; the paradox of the vegetarian chef (and the loophole in that paradox that is dessert); the many different ways and different worlds in which a person can sell out; and, poignantly, what happens to punk habits in cold light of life’s rearview mirror:
Del Posto occupies one corner of the old National Biscuit Company building on Manhattan’s west side. It shares the building with a Moet Hennessy USA distributor, the CBS College Sports NY headquarters, and Craftsteak steakhouse. Unlike most restaurants in New York, Del Posto occupies 24,000 square feet. When you step past the foyer and its neat collection of Michelin award plaques, you are faced with a sprawling complex of marble and mahogany that seems like the kind of place Mussolini would have dined at. It is a terrifying, beautiful, awe-inspiring interior, its physical imposition a direct reflection of a moment in time when New York and America’s economy boomed. The restaurant is co-owned by restaurateur/vintner Joe Bastianich, his mother Lidia Bastianich, head chef Mark Ladner, and celebrity chef/TV personality Mario Batali. The fare at Del Posto reflects Batali’s long-standing advocacy of Italian cuisine at any cost.
It’s also one of the highest-profile Certified Green restaurants in America. All trash is recycled or composted. Del Posto sells no bottled water, instead piping spring water up from 50-liter aluminum kegs on the lower floor. The menu offers a wide range of vegan and vegetarian options that are full dishes in themselves, not substitutions. All fryer oil is piped to a collection chamber by the back door and used to gas up several company vehicles once a week. Brooks’s delivery of blood oranges–shipped out from Santa Monica–presented one of the biggest conflicts to the green mandate. Despite all this, the space’s size and monied elegance makes it easy to mistake Del Posto for something more ominous: a large, profitable business with no connection to anything besides profit and spectacular food.
Such charges have extra resonance for anyone associated with the realms of the hippie or the punker, and perhaps an even further oomph for people like me and Brooks, who toured together during the heyday of the hippie-punk cookbook phenomenon. We were both the same sort of vegetarian during this period–serious about not eating meat (although neither of us can remember if we were vegan) and equally serious about mocking those more serious than us. Even when you were inside it, there was a lot to mock from the veggie sub-subculture: the preciousness, the self-importance, the obsessive use of the word “yummy” to describe food that clearly was not. In hindsight, this world seems like a forerunner of the modern “foodies” and their even more modern, Facebook-based “foodiots” who post the details of their entire gastronomic lives for all the world to see.
Also: “We googled you. And all we found was stuff about rock bands.” Candidly, my first thought when word came that VICE would be throwing a $250,000 party to celebrate Halloween was that this money could have instead gone toward purchasing a few hundred more articles like this one. That they seem to be able to do both — i.e. buy drinks for 8,000 22-year-olds and also regularly subsidize what are essentially New Yorker length profiles on sublime oddities like Doc Dart and megatoilet New York cinematic nostalgia — defies logic on both sides, the major unremarked upon exception to every extant narrative about the failure of print journalism and death of music criticism. May their funny money never run out.