During an interview that will appear in next week’s issue of New York, Tom Colicchio told us, “As much as I love what I do at Craft, I don’t want to be known for putting a piece of fish on the plate with olive oil and salt and pepper.” That’s why last year, missing the creative call of the plated dishes that won him a name at Mondrian and Gramercy Tavern, he created Tom: Tuesday Dinner. He’s enjoyed his return to form so much that in the next weeks, he’ll open a new venture in the Chelsea space that currently belongs to his steakhouse, Craftsteak. Current chef Shane McBride will stay on, but Colicchio, for the most part, will create the menu, and though he’s now the father of a 4-month-old boy, he plans to put in a good deal of time in the kitchen. We asked him what to expect from Colicchio & Sons.
Why close Craftsteak? Did the steakhouse trend bottom out?
I don’t really follow trends, so I don’t know. The excitement for me has kind of worn out there, but mostly it’s the neighborhood. It has changed with the High Line, and with the economy people aren’t really coming out for $100 steaks. That aside, it’s a space I love, and I wanted to do something just a little personal there.
So personal that you’ve named it Colicchio & Sons.
Part of that is looking backward at what I’ve done in the past and doing some of those dishes I did at Mondrian and Gramercy; but now after having a second kid, I’m also looking to the future. When I first started doing the Tom: Tuesday Dinner, some of the old dishes came back — the cod with the boulangere potatoes and cider vinegar; the monkfish wrapped in pancetta and served with truffle vinaigrette and braised red-cabbage; and the sea-urchin-and-crab fondue. It also sparked a lot of creativity and a lot of new things.
What are some of the dishes you’ll carry over from Tom: Tuesday Dinner?
Recently, I’ve done baked gnocchi with Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, chestnuts, and white truffles. Or roasted octopus, pork belly, and chorizo vinaigrette.
Will the menu be your traditional mix of appetizers and entrées?
I’m 90 percent sure (I say that because I think I’ve sold myself on it) that there will be no difference between appetizers and entrées — it’s all the same kind of portions. I find that when I go out I want three appetizers instead of an entrée. The prices will range from $12 to $14 and $38 to $40.
To what extent did the economy factor into the creation of the menu? Did you have to cut back on pricey ingredients?
We haven’t changed our focus at Craft at all. If you want to serve an Elysian Fields rack of lamb, you cannot put it on the menu for less than $50 because you’re losing money — it’s expensive because it’s small production, and [farmer Keith Martin] feeds the animals organic feed. One way of doing it is possibly doing a two-chop rack for $30, so you can still get flavor and taste without spending $50 for a full rack of lamb.
Besides the reservations policy, what will be the difference between the dining room and the front taproom?
I wouldn’t use a rack of lamb in the front room, but I would use a breast of lamb. It’ll be more of a bar menu. Prices will probably range from $12 to $20.
You’re replacing your raw bar with a wood-burning hearth there. How do you plan to use it?
We’ve been messing around with pork loin stuffed with chorizo. A lot of wood-roasted meats. I’ve messed around with pizza at home — we’re not going to do a pizza program, but we’ll probably do a pizza-type dish on the menu.
Do you feel obligated to use local ingredients?
I’d never label myself locavore, or I wouldn’t be using olive oil, lemons, artichokes, or other ingredients you can’t get locally. There’s a woman in North Carolina outside of Chapel Hill, Eliza McLean from Cane Creek, who’s doing everything right — she grows grass and feeds animals grass, and that’s what she does. And I can’t buy from her because she’s from North Carolina? No, that’s crazy.