The New York Diet

Chef Andrew Carmellini Takes His Cappuccinos at Abraço and Burgers at Minetta Tavern

Photo: Melissa Hom

A restaurant opening, says Andrew Carmellini, is tough on your body. The chef, who has been training in kitchens since the age of 14, is now working out and testing recipes for his new, unnamed venture. The restaurant — which will replace Robert De Niro’s Ago — will begin to transform in about seven weeks. See how the Italian wonder chef balances waffle tastings and bowling-alley birthday parties in this week’s New York Diet.

Saturday, March 7
Technically, if you want to start in the morning, I had a slice of coconut cake and a glass of whiskey, probably Woodford, at 1 a.m. at my house.

Most of my mornings are the same for breakfast. I either have Red Mill oatmeal or Kashi. Sunday, I had oatmeal with raisins and walnuts, and an Earl Grey tea. I cook the oatmeal with some milk, ground cinnamon, and raisins, or sometimes dried cranberries, and top it with a big scoop of Greek yogurt. I use the instant, which cooks up fine. In the morning I don’t want to do anything that’s going to take more than five minutes.

For lunch, Gwen and I had a late dim-sum pig-out at Chinatown Brasserie: soup dumplings, turnip cake, bean-curd rolls, pea leaves with garlic, Chinese steamed rice noodles with pork, and crispy pan-fried noodles with mushrooms. It’s some of the best dim sum in town, I think. We just had tea with brunch.

On the way home I stopped at Café Abraço and had an almond-milk cappuccino. They make homemade almond milk and great black-olive cookies. They’re like shortbread and the greatest crunchy thing to eat with the coffee. The coffee has some bitterness and the cookies have this umami thing going on. It’s so good together.

I had dinner at home. We had this big salad that Gwen usually makes. It’s all different chopped vegetables, raw: different peppers, cucumbers, chickpeas, arugula, spinach, celery, organic carrots, cooked organic broccoli, and chopped-up Manchego cheese, with roast turkey and avocado on top. We drank a big 750 of Witt, the Belgian beer. If I’m eating at home, I have five favorite things. If it’s not this salad, it’s roast chicken or a pasta dish. Sometimes I’ll make Mexican or Thai.

Sunday, March 8
Sunday I had some Kashi. I make a mix with a couple different Kashis, roasted almonds, and dried cranberries. Gwen’s crazy about tea so we have like 500 varieties from T Salon. That day I had chai.

We had a late lunch at Craftbar. We shared an arugula salad, and I had a bowl of orecchiette with sausage and ricotta salata, and a glass of Malbec.

We were out and about on the later side on Sunday and we stopped at Mercadito Cantina. We had calamari tacos, shrimp tacos, mushrooms tacos, a guacamole tasting, and a Presidente Beer. And I love their green rice with Manchego cheese. I can kill desserts, but I can’t do it all the time anymore. I started training again just before we open the restaurant because I’ll be working the line every day. I’ve got to be in shape. You want your hips and thighs to be strong, so I do a lot of squats, cardio too.

I had a little salad at home after that. Usually what happens is on Saturday or Sunday we’ll make a huge salad thing and then have it around all week — not dressed of course!

Monday, March 9
Monday morning I had oatmeal again with dried cranberries, walnuts, and Greek yogurt. I got a Nespresso machine for Christmas so I had an espresso instead of tea that day.

We started recipe testing on Monday, so I was on the run a little bit. I just sliced a little prosciutto cotto and Cheddar cheese, and took two pieces of wheat bread with a bit of tomato, and had a little sandwich standing up in the kitchen. That day we didn’t really finish any dishes. We were prepping, getting orders together, and making stuffings.

We went until 8 p.m. and then there was a surprise birthday party for [pastry chef] Karen DeMasco. Her husband threw it at the bowling alley at Chelsea Piers, so I stopped over there. There was all this food set up. I had a couple of ribs, a handful of tortilla chips, and a Jack and Coke. I was in charge of the birthday cake and I decided to get cupcakes. My favorite cupcakes are at Dessert Club, ChikaLicious so I got 50 and had a caramel cupcake.

I was starving after that, so I met one of my partners, Luke Ostrom, at Boqueria in Flatiron. He’s like the chef de cuisine. I had some Catalan spinach with raisins and pine nuts, some Brussels sprouts and chorizo, some baby squid, pan con tomate, and a glass of Can Feixes, a white wine from Spain. That was it for that day.

Tuesday, March 10
Tuesday, some Kashi again with Fuji apple and walnuts, and another espresso at home.

Then I ran around a little bit and stopped for lunch at Bo Ky, a Cambodian noodle place on Bayard Street. I had a beef special with flat noodle. It’s soup noodles with beef tendon, beef balls, beef round eye, beef shank, raw onions, and cilantro, and there might have been some tripe in there.

I came back and had a good five hours of menu tasting. I’m going to open for brunch here and we’re also going to redo the whole room-service menu. We tested 80 different waffles, mostly different batters. We tried a couple of yeast-based waffles, sourdough; some using cold butter or melted butted; some with whipped egg whites on the side then combined; some had buttermilk, some didn’t; we did some with polenta. We tried pancakes. A little bite of all that stuff. Karen made Parmesan scones and some dried-cherry pastries that were delicious. We tested out focaccia. A couple of egg dishes. Three sucked, and one was really good. It was a egg dish baked in the wood-burning oven with a bunch of stuff.

After that we stopped for a drink at Elettaria; they have great cocktails there. I had this ginger drink, like a Gin Gin Mule. I think it’s called the Ginger Rogers. Then Luke, me, Ken Friedman, Josh Picard, David Lynch, and April Bloomfield all met at Minetta Tavern. I had a salad pissenlit and a Black Label burger with fries. [Is it worth $26?] No comment. I’ve had the Black Label blend before. A couple of guys shared a côte de bœuf so I had a piece of that and a little bit of the bone marrow. We got a magnum of Chinon. I had a chocolate soufflé and a glass of single-malt Scotch. I think this was opening night. I’m not sure. They were on point for the first night. The guy’s a genius, what can I say? He kept the mirrors from the old Minetta Tavern, the room feels great, classic New York. It’s funny because it’s on Macdougal Street for sure. After that I had a Sam Adams on draft at some random bar.

Wednesday, March 11
Wednesday: Kashi, a Fuji apple, and pecans; you know, switch it up.

I didn’t have lunch, per se; Wednesday I basically cooked all day because tomorrow I have a game dinner for Tom Brokaw and a bunch of his friends. It’s game they shoot at his ranch in Montana. I think this is the fifth year. I spent Wednesday prepping elk, venison, wood pigeons, and quail. They sent some prairie chickens. I had to look those up. They’re like grouse a little bit. I made a braciole with buffalo short ribs, Sicilian oregano, pine nuts, little cubes of mozzarella de bufala, and toasted bread crumbs on top. We’re going to do wood pigeon wrapped in pancetta. I was just picking at stuff. I made a game soup with apples and chestnuts, and I put a couple of the prairie chickens in it, but we kept one and cooked it up to see what it was like. We’re going to do gnocchi so I made a ragu with elk, antelope, fallow deer, Grappa, juniper, fresh bay leaf, and Fiore Sardo cheese. So I had a little ragu with a little cheese shaved on it; it was pretty good.

I walked home and stopped at Gimme! Coffee on Mott Street and had a great macchiato.

At home I had some salad again with roast turkey and avocado.

Thursday, March 12
This morning, healthy me had some bananas, blueberry, and Kashi again.

I didn’t have coffee at home. I stopped at Abraço and got one of those almond-milk cappuccinos.

Once I year I judge a graduation at FCI, so I went to do that. It was a good group today: Michael Anthony from Gramercy Tavern and Joey Campanaro were also there. I tasted dishes from two different students. They made scallops, a rack of lamb, a pork-chop dish, a raw yellowtail dish, a lobster consommé, and a chocolate tart. So I had a taste of two times all of that.

For dinner, Gwen and I are going out tonight with Gail Simmons to Pho Bang on Mott Street.

Chef Andrew Carmellini Takes His Cappuccinos at Abraço and Burgers at