The New York Diet

Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia Binges on Oysters and Snacks on Hot Pockets

“I can eat three dozen oysters.”Photo: Melissa Hom
There’s no other restaurateur quite like Donatella Arpaia of Dona and davidburke & donatella: She was the first to zip around town on a Vespa (“Everyone else copied me”) and, leaving aside her discerning palate, we’re quite certain she’s the only one food writers have characterized as “comely.” Between Friday, September 29, and Wednesday, October 4, she indulged in a singular combination of sea urchin, fat-free yogurt, and black-and-white cookies.

Donatella Arpaia

Friday morning I had coffee and two black-and-white cookies from Westhampton Bakery — the mini ones that are moist and yummy. It was either that or nonfat yogurt.

I had a late business lunch at Ben Benson’s, believe it or not. It’s a freezer in there — they should turn down the air-conditioning. I had a chopped salad and maybe 10 percent of my prime rib.

On Saturday, for breakfast I met a friend at Viand. I told them to keep it light, but the egg-white omelette with Swiss cheese was dripping with grease and lard. The waiter said, “I saw it with my own eyes. They didn’t put any butter,” and I said, “I’ll have two poached eggs boiled.” They made me pay for the greasy omelette.

I ate dinner at my mother’s home at Atlantic Beach. She made dandelion greens in a broth, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, and the chicken cutlet I love. My mom gets upset because I like Hellman’s mayonnaise on the side. She was born in Apulia, where all they do is olive oil and they don’t have butter or cream.

Sunday night I ended up at Blue Ribbon, late night. I ordered matzo soup in honor of my Jewish brethren. The sea urchin in the shell was to die for; unfortunately, they only had one left. My friend ordered the shrimp cocktail — the shrimp was small and a little old, so we didn’t touch it.

Monday I was a good girl and had yogurt with grape nuts and almonds for breakfast. I can stay in a size 6 because if I overeat one day, I have a fat-free yogurt the next day and skip dinner. For lunch, I had a ham-and-cheddar Hot Pocket.

Early in the evening, I went with a chef to check out a suffering restaurant on the Upper East Side to scout as potential location. Their chicken soup was fresh but a little gamy. I got the appetizer portion of spaghetti and meatballs, and it was like a scene from Big Night; the meatballs were bombs.

I ended up at Il Mulino. I try to stay away from alcohol, but they make the best bruised dirty martini. I had it with berries and whipped cream since I was starving, but I didn’t want to go to bed on a heavy stomach.

For dinner on Tuesday, we had the awesome sliders at P.J. Clarke’s with some oysters. I have oysters with everything. They’re high protein, no guilt, and sinfully delicious, especially small, milky ones like Kumamotos. I can eat three dozen.

On Wednesday night, I smoked a vanilla Davidoff cigar. I’ve never been a cigarette smoker, but I like small cigars. It’s a social thing, and I do have an oral fixation.

As told to Daniel Maurer

Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia Binges on Oysters and Snacks on Hot Pockets