Scott Conant’s Faustina opened this weekend–it’s the chef’s third venture after the Scarpetta branches in New York and Miami, and his bid to exorcise the demons of Table 8.
Faustina’s menu runs to sharable Italian-ish plates: There’s a selection of cheese and charcuterie, a raw bar serving crudo, pastas, lardo-wrapped prawns, pork belly, and, of course, fried chicken.
We caught up with Conant to talk about his vision for Faustina, tips for at-home pasta makers, and Scarpetta’s spaghetti with tomato and basil. Check back here tomorrow for the second half of the interview, in which Conant talks about what the New York dining scene is missing.
You have a Scarpetta in both New York and Miami, and now you’re opening another restaurant in the Cooper Square Hotel. How do you manage your time and your cooking between the three projects?
I think that not having a set schedule is the key to managing my time. I’m fortunate that I’m able to surround myself with a stellar group that is responsible, which allows me to be fluid. Because of them, I get to have a presence at all the restaurants. I’m able to spend time cooking, expediting, and developing new concepts.
How do you envision the dining experience at Faustina?
The idea is for Faustina to be fun with an energetic atmosphere where people can clink their glasses and enjoy themselves. I want to make sure that all of our guests are happy and, of course, that they share food and maybe even order something that they’ve never tasted before.
Will you keep any of the Table 8 staff from the front of house or kitchen?
Yes, we kept 75 percent of staff that was here and retrained them. It was nice to inspire them to get on board with my vision of the restaurant and my idea of service.
When you opened Scarpetta, were you surprised that the big hit was the spaghetti with tomato-basil sauce? Why do you think so many people were attracted to that dish?
In some ways, it’s always surprising…I’m such a perfectionist with every element of the dish and the fact that this particular dish resonates with people is wonderful.
Any tips for home cooks on how to improve their pasta- and sauce-making?
When making pasta, salt the water until it tastes like broth. If it tastes like the ocean, then it’s too salty. The salt needs to permeate and cook into the pasta. When it’s three-fourths of the way done, drain the pasta into a colander and then toss it into in a pan (never rinse the pasta). Add some of the cooking liquid to the pan and adjust to its proper consistency, creating an emulsion with the sauce. Also, don’t let the pasta sit. Serve it as soon as it’s ready.