The New York Diet

Chef Cesare Casella Is Always ‘Checking the Quality’

“I like to try new dishes for the curriculum.” Photo: Melissa Hom

Tuscan chef Cesare Casella juggles three roles that put him on a tasting rampage this week. As dean of Italian studies for the French Culinary Institute, he samples student recipes. For pal David Bouley, Casella is consulting on Secession, which opens this weekend. He also plans to open retail-restaurant hybrid Salumeria Rosi by the end of the month. We caught him right before a trip to Italy to chronicle a veritable food frenzy.

Friday, September 26
I got up and went to the coffee shop, City Diner, and I ate a Spanish frittata with organic eggs, caffé, orange juice. And then at 10, 10:30, I was at the Gramercy Park Hotel and I had a half toasted plain bagel and a cappuccino. I was there for some meetings with my partners from Italy.

I went back to the Salumeria in the afternoon, and I wanted to taste products that we’re going to have in the store to make sure it’s right. Then I decided it was too sad to be by myself with my chefs to eat, so I invited a few friends to taste different salame and wine — we had Tocai Bastianich and Morellino la Mozza, and a Franciacorta from Italy. It was all my managers and Kevin Garcia and Mark Ladner and a few other chefs. I had three slices finocchiona, three slices salame Toscano, three slices salame Milanese, three slices cacciatorino, three slices salame di cinghiale, two slices guanciale, four slices mortadella, two slices prosciutto cotto, one slice arista, one cup olive miste, three artichokes preserved in oil, imported, a half-bag plain taralli, four slices ciabatta bread, seven chocolate truffles from Jacques Torres, three ounces Parmigiano reggiano, three ounces mozzarella di bufala, one cup mache salad, two slices prosciutto di Parma eighteen months, two slices prosciutto di Parma 24 months, and three slices prosciutto di Parma 30 months. It was two o’clock when I arrived home.

Saturday, September 27

In the morning I had two slices of bread with cream cheese — I love the cream cheese with Tuscan bread, like sourdough. After breakfast I played with my daughter. I woke up late. I stayed home and ate one slice of plain pizza with mozzarella. I found it in the refrigerator. I believe it was from the night before from my wife. I put it back in oven and I ate it that way — I like next-day pizza.

In the afternoon I wanted to walk along Riverside Park and I went with my bike, and then I went back home and went to the store. Then I ate a burrito with black beans from Chipotle with rice, pepper, onion, and medium spicy sauce, tomato, corn, cheese, guacamole, and salad. I like everything inside.

I went back to work, and then I went for a late dinner to ’Cesca. Farroto quattro formaggi, farro cooked risotto style, a small portion, and a grilled lamb chop with fried onions rings and green beans. I had a Pinot Bianco.

Sunday, September 28
Sunday morning, I had two slices of Tuscan bread with low-fat cream cheese and a café latte.

For lunch, I had two sandwiches with turkey, cheese — I believe Pecorino Toscano — and hot peppers, and an ear of corn. My wife made it. And I had a small bowl of toscanelli beans (it’s like cannellini beans but smaller, more round), because in my house it’s all the time beans. I love beans.

In the night I went to eat some Asian food at 75th and Amsterdam. I had a third of a bowl of edamame, one portion of crispy calamari rings, two pieces of shumai, pork pot stickers, sashimi salad with two different types of sashimi mixed together with spicy sauce, one dynamite roll, one Kirin Light, and two cups of sake.

Monday, September 29
Monday morning I had coffee and a pear. Then I went to the school.

I was testing dishes for the Italian Culinary Academy. I like to try new dishes for the curriculum; I show the instructors how to do it right. I tried strozzapreti, bread dumplings with Swiss chard. One tablespoon pinoli, two steamed shrimp, two scallops cooked with mushrooms, two whole steamed calamari, one crespella (like a crêpe, but it was with spinach), béchamel, broiled in the oven with tomato sauce on top. One slice of leek tart, it was fantastic. I’m going to have that in the restaurant too, in the Salumeria as a special. There was a pinoli tart. I ate three spoons of cacciucco, that’s a traditional Tuscan fish soup. Then three spoons eggplant parmigiana with two slices of ciabatta bread they make at the school.

In the night, I went for dinner at Accademia di Vino, and I ate one slice of foccacia, half of a grilled cheese pizza, rucola e cremini salad, and then it was crudo — there were nine different varieties of fish. Then a half portion of broiled calamari, two scallops with green beans, and a small piece of sturgeon Livornese style.

Tuesday, September 30
Three slices of challah and coffee at my house.

Then I went to the school and I ate some seafood salad. The students did it. Some fried fennel, and then eggplant parmigiana.

After that I went for a meeting about the menu for the Salumeria at Falai on Lafayette. For lunch I had a quarter-panino prosciutto cotto and mozzarella, two tablespoons insalata di farro, one egg and cheese sandwich (maybe one egg with Fontina), and a half tuna-niçoise salad.

After that I went to the store and after working we went for beer. Where? [Laughs] Chipotle, and I ate a rice bowl with carnitas, and chips.

I went back the store, and when I went home I ate one cup, Diavoli beans, one pear, one apple, and one fennel salad. It’s simple, I take the fennel, I cut it in half, and I put salt and olive oil. Now I love this Ursini olive oil flavored with lemon.

Wednesday, October 1

No breakfast because I got up and went to school directly.

I had half a rib eye because I was tasting one slice from one student, one slice from another student. Then they cooked beans so I stopped to taste beans. I taste Zolfini beans, Corona Beans, and Sorana.

After that I went to Cipriani Wall Street because there was [the Autism Speaks benefit] I was cooking at. I had two slices Tuscan bread, half a pizza bianca, seven slices prosciutto 24 months sliced by hand. I was slicing for them, but I was checking the quality so I was taking some slices for me. Six slices finocchiona, salame with fennel seeds. Then half a ball of buffalo mozzarella, and ten slices of grilled T-bone steak (I was still checking the quality). After, when we finished, I took some steak and put it in the middle of the pizza bianca. It was fantastic.

I had a half-portion of lobster risotto with black truffle. I was next to Christian Albin, the chef from the Four Seasons Restaurant, and they gave me some salmon. I think it was steamed, with tomato, and it was a very pretty color pink, I believe wild salmon, very, very nice. And then some rucola salad.

Then I went to the after-party and then I went to Soho House to drink a beer so at that point I was hungry so I went to the Spotted Pig. I had a half-burger with Gorgonzola, a half Greek salad, and grilled mackerel. I went with some other chefs. I can’t say who. There was a fish-and-chips, but without the chips, that was very good with very nice batter. The kitchen sent it. And then I stopped eating that night.

Chef Cesare Casella Is Always ‘Checking the Quality’