Donatella Arpaia, the attractive face of Mia Dona, has seemingly abandoned her role at the front of the house in order to take charge of the kitchen, notes Frank Bruni in a Diner’s Journal post today. Or, perhaps more accurately, she is now both the face and the backbone of the restaurant. Michael Psilakis, her former partner at Mia Dona, left the restaurant last fall to focus on their other (Greek) establishments — Kefi and Anthos — as well as his own restaurants: Gus and Gabriel and a possible Williamsburg venture. Since then, Arpaia has been, well, cooking. And that might just be the inspiration for the title of her forthcoming cookbook, Donatella Cooks, set for release in April. Bruni hears that the book will act a launchpad for a television show in what he calls “an increasingly familiar (and familiarly cunning) plan these days.”
As Bruni points out, Arpaia “hasn’t, to this point, been known for her knife skills.” But the restaurateur appears regularly on Iron Chef America, and has been featured heavily on the recently relaunched iVillage food site as a “guest blogger,” offering recipes and entertaining advice. In his post, Bruni does not question “Ms. Arpaia’s culinary passion or prowess.” Rather, he is concerned that “the way in which she’s now branching out and restyling herself is emblematic, and it recognizes where the money and celebrity lie.” He puts in her the same category as Katie Lee, whom he profiles for this Sunday’s Times magazine as a powerhouse of the “culinary entertainment” movement. A sort of pre-launch of the book (an invitation-only event) will take place tonight at Mia Dona.