I’m sure that fans of Del Posto chef Mark Ladner have been wondering why it took him so long to write this cookbook. It’s been six years since Del Posto was awarded a rare four-star rating in The New York Times , a review which holds far more importance to denizens of the Big Apple than anything in the Michelin guide. If he had written something – anything – when that was still big news, the book would have flown off the shelves.
Perhaps the book evolved as slowly as Ladner’s cuisine at the fine-dining Italian restaurant, which, he writes, is still changing.
“When Del Posto opened more than a decade ago [in 2005], I had no idea that we might be able to create a new style of sophisticated Italian-American cuisine. This was never the goal, nor did I think we were capable of such a feat. Every restaurant is a work in progress, and we are still developing. What I can say for certain is that I have been dedicated to building a bridge between the classic, regional cuisine of Italy and America’s culinary ingenuity. Over the last decade, I have completely committed myself and our kitchen to harnessing every ounce of potential that traditional Italian has to offer fine dining in America. Del Posto considers New York to be Italy’s (unofficial) 21st region. We have created our own regional Italian cuisine, based on what has been available here, as well as New Yorkers’ expectations ...
“[When it opened] Del Posto had no precedent – an Italian restaurant of its size, level of ambition and price point had never existed in New York City before. Who could possibly be interested in eating food this expensive and convoluted on any given night? ... We had no gimmick or any particularly compelling new angle. But we firmly believed that traditional cooking, familiar flavours, and recognizable food will never go out of fashion, and we wanted to present it with old-world, choreographed service.”
The flavours may be familiar, but the form they take might not be. A simple spring salad isn’t so simple when you have to make a special cake for it, for the sole purpose of crumbling it into pieces and using it to garnish the other ingredients. Beef and truffle carpaccio – a staple at many an Italian restaurant – here is served with artichokes alla romana and sage grissini. Lasagne bolognese – that crowd-pleasing staple that many of us first attempted back at university – is made into a towering 100 layer concoction.
Not everything is difficult, though. Some of the easier dishes include chicken and egg salad tramezzini (small sandwiches); snipped herb and lettuce salad; fried calamari with spicy caper butter sauce; spaghetti with Dungeness crab and jalapenos; monkfish piccata; Emilia-style pork with prosciutto, parmigiano and balsamic; and pistachio gelato.