I’m reading “Restaurant Man,” Joe Bastianich’s frank, detailed, and wonderful account of his life in the business, from a childhood in Queens and Istria, up through these days as partner with Mario Batali in a few of the world’s best restaurants: Babbo, Del Posto, and Lupa.
It’s all about the numbers, for starters. Getting the restaurant math, the low margins, and the cost of thievery, corrupt suppliers, etc. But it’s also a passionate business with the element of performance and the pleasure of feeding people.
He writes, for example, “I knew the power of good food…Food could blow minds and dissolve your problems, at least for a while, and I had a strong suspicion it might help get girls into bed.” Ah, the days of being single, when I lived in Boston’s North End, and fresh pasta with a simple grated cheese and boiled broccoli dish yielded yielding.
Speaking of the North End, which he visited when he was an undergrad at BC, he has this very funny and implicitly provocative comment to make about the restaurants there: “I would take my Wasp girlfriends out to restaurants in the North End of Boston…” followed in the next couple of sentences by his comparison to the superior quality of his home cooking: “In college, cooking was second nature to me. We had a kitchen, and I’d make family-style pasta, simple stuff, with a lot of cream and butter.”