Before there was food, there was music.
Early in his cooking career, John DeLucie, son of a jazz playing father and Italian cooking mother, gigged live on stage at a New York City club with legendary guitarist Skunk Baxter. Remember Steely Dan’s “Reeling in the Years?” THAT Skunk Baxter.
DeLucie still plays, but his mother’s DNA and cooking chops led him to helm such New York hotspots as The Waverly Inn, The Lion and Empire Diner. The year of Covid led to the closing of so many beloved establishments, but DeLucie has resurfaced beneath a toque at Brooklyn’s Court Street Tavern, home to one of NY’s oldest bars and, today, outdoor dining and an ice skating rink. We sat down with him to get his take on what chefs influenced his cooking, his fave foods growing up, and his view on fresh or boxed pasta.
What are three things you cannot start your day without?
A kiss from my wife, a kiss from my son, a double cortado.
When Covid subsides, what city will you visit first?
Paris or Rome. Both cities celebrate life and living well.
At home, fresh pasta or boxed?
Boxed Gragnano pasta from Naples. It’s amazing.
Best musical artist to cook by?
Breakfast: Antônio Carlos Jobim or any bossa nova or BMP.
Lunch: Bill Withers.
Dinner: Bill Evans.
What chef most influenced your style of cooking?
Many great chefs, but it was my grandmother. I can still remember at age five her zucchini from my grandfather’s garden and scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil.
Sweet or savory?
Savory, but I’m a sucker for chocolate or tarte tatin.
Knicks or Nets?
With respect to KD and Kyrie, KNICKS!!!
When do you think the restaurant experience will return to normal?
I think it will be more “normal” in the warmer months. If government doesn’t give us back indoor dining by then, at least people can be comfortable sitting outside.
Advice to anyone who wants to go into the food business?
See if you can get into dental school first.
Favorite childhood restaurant or dish?
Pastina with butter and a little milk, prepared by my mother,
Drink of choice at Starbucks?
I was gifted a very expensive espresso maker.
Subway or car service?
Best Book you’ve read during the pandemic?
My son turned 2 in may during the pandemic and my wife was working full time from home. Read?
Person you’d most like to find seated next to you at a good bar?
Favorite fast food burger?
Most humbling food job you’ve ever been paid for?
Any job in food can be humbling at some point.
One thing the government can do to truly help restaurant workers?
Pass some sort of credible stimulus. It should be “you guys have to close your business, so here is the money to pay your rent, taxes, benefits and workers for the foreseeable future.” You’re welcome.
Restaurant you’d fly or drive to tomorrow anywhere in the world?
Osteria Francescana, Modena.
2021 mask of choice?
I have this silver lined one I bought online at Mac Weldon. They have great underwear too.
You can sample Chef John DeLucie’s culinary handiwork at Court Street Tavern in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY. Outdoor dining hours vary. Ice skating is happening daily.
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