Ryan Skeen tells us a little bit about why things didn’t work out at Irving Mill: “It was a mountain to climb to redo that place. We did the best we could, but I’m not sure it was what the owners wanted. They were always open to trying new things but ultimately they wanted Candela, which is what it used to be. Toward the end, I stepped away because they felt my salary was very high for the restaurant and I agreed it might be a better place for them to finance without me.” So far, after significant restructuring (meaning financial, managerial, and staffing changes from the back of the house to the front), he’s happy at Allen & Delancey, though of course mindful of its financial situation: “It’s a lot of work but it’s comfortable. Everything is organic — it’s all in-house. Plus, it’s got more personality. I’ve learned that rather than taking a big paycheck to run a big restaurant, I’m happier with everything being smaller.”
Owing to space constraints, Skeen and his kitchen staff (mostly carryovers from Irving Mill) can’t do much sausage-making, but he’s excited to concentrate more on pasta. And while this menu isn’t as porky nor as focused on nose-to-tail cooking, he still uses his share of animal parts. Right now, the restaurant uses a baby pig’s head for the terrine on the bar menu, a shoulder for the pork sugo garganelli, and loin, belly, and blood for porchetta with morcilla; and its purveyor sends the legs to another restaurant. One thing you won’t see on the menu is a burger: “I spoke with the owners of Allen & Delancey and said, ‘If you want to do a burger, I’d rather open a bar,’” he tells us. “I needed a break from the burger — at the last two restaurants the burger was just nuts.” Given that the pork toast is the one Skeen standby that made it onto the menu, you’ll want to take a look at the rest of the dishes.