Chef Missy Robbins may be best known as the former top toque at Spiaggia in Chicago, where she found a fan in Barack Obama, but she was no stranger to New York when she took over for Andrew Carmellini at A Voce. “The misconception about me is that I never lived in New York before, but I lived here for nine years before I moved to Chicago,” she says. She fell for the West Village back then, and lives there now as she prepares to open the second A Voce at Columbus Circle on September 18. Long days spent between two restaurants haven’t interfered with Robbins’s dry humor, or this week’s New York Diet.
Saturday, August 22
I started with an iced latte at Joe’s in the West Village. I like whole milk, the fatter the better. I used to live in the West Village many years ago. That’s my favorite neighborhood and that’s where I wanted to come back to. Do you want to know my address, too?
Then I came uptown and continued my liquid diet and had a smoothie at Elixir: The Smart Start. It’s berries, bananas, and there might be apple cider in it. Elixir has so many different smoothies it’s a little confusing, but I’ve pretty much been going there every day. We’re very good friends.
Later in the day, we moved on to some grilled cheese from Bouchon Bakery, here in the Time Warner Center. They do awesome grilled cheese and tomato soup. My pastry chef brought some back and was having it and I stole half of it from her.
I was at [A Voce] Madison for service Saturday, so didn’t eat again until very late. I took my sous-chefs to ’inoteca for some drinks and food. They have an awesome drink there called an Italian 75. It has gin, lemon, and Prosecco. It’s pretty close to work, so it’s a nice spot. We had a bunch of their pastas and, most memorable, a prawn dish with Sardinian couscous and clams. The chef de cuisine, Matt Conover, was kind enough to make me egg toast with bottarga even though it was past their deadline for that menu.
My sous-chefs were drinking Negronis, a bunch of us were drinking 75s, and my chef de cuisine, Jeremy, enjoys wine. Not a hard-liquor drinker, that guy. Nor am I, really, but, special occasions …
That was at two in the morning already, so I thought I’d stop eating. You don’t find me funny do you?
Sunday, August 23
Sunday morning, I went with a friend to DBGBs. I was craving a burger. I really wanted beer, but I wasn’t quite ready, so I had a latte with my burger, which is a really weird combination. That was around 2 p.m. Not because I was sleeping; I was actually here working. I had the Frenchie burger. I had a couple sausages and the smoked salmon; I was pretty full by the time my burger came out, actually. And they do a cassis-beer yogurt ice cream, which was pretty cool.
Then I took a nap.
I went for Korean food at Do Hwa on Carmine Street. It’s one of my comfort-food places. We had a really awesome glass-noodle dish with vegetables, kimchee pancakes, awesome rice cakes with kimchee and spicy sauce, bibimbop, and tuna sashimi with avocado. I think I drank water. I know, it’s a little boring.
I stopped for mint-chocolate gelato on the way home. I’ve been to Grom so many times, I went to Cones on Bleecker. I was very curious about it. I pass it 25 times a week and I never go. It always seems very busy. It was pretty good. It’s rich.
After the gelato, I’m pretty sure I went to sleep. You’re catching me in a crazy week.
Monday, August 24
Monday morning, I got a smoothie again, downstairs at Elixir. Our coffee machines were finally put in here, so I made myself an illy espresso. And then I pretty much forgot to eat all day, frankly, until my cheese delivery arrived late in the afternoon.
We’re doing a cheese menu here with ten selections, all Italian, and I pretty much ate cheese all afternoon. We use Murray’s a lot; we get a lot from Buon Italia and some other small Italian purveyors. I had already picked the ten, but they finally arrived, and I was tasting them to inspect the quality and teach my staff about them. Out of that delivery, the Castelrosso was probably my favorite. It’s a cow’s-milk from Piedmonte. It’s not really hard, but it’s sort of crumbly. But I’m also a fan of the La Tur: very creamy, sheep, cow, and goat mixed together, also from Piedmonte. We’ve paired every cheese with a different condiment. We have a really cool cheese called Perorino Marzolino that’s rubbed in San Marzano tomatoes when it’s aging, and we’re pairing that with candied cherry tomatoes. We have dried figs cooked in red-wine syrup; nectarines cooked in bay-leaf syrup; pistachio brittle; pine-nut butter. It was a pretty big group effort between myself, my pastry chef (Jenny McCoy) and my sous-chefs. They got into it. When I’ve been in Italy and gone to enotecas that are very cheese-focused, every cheese comes with a different honey, a different mostarda. I was definitely inspired by that, for sure.
After the cheeses, I waited until about 1 a.m., when I was leaving, and had a doughnut, a bomboloni. When [Fabio Vivani] came in, he said that if he was ever going to make bomboloni, that they were the best he’s ever had. I’d be happy to give him the recipe. Right now that’s the only crossover dessert that will be at both restaurants, besides gelato. What makes them so good? Uh, they’re light and fluffy and airy and sweet and filled with delicious cream.
The secret? A very good pastry chef.
After being here for eighteen hours, I thought it was time to go home.
Tuesday, August 25
Tuesday morning I had an illy iced latte here; I like to make them myself. I’m just a little picky with it, and think it’s fun to have an espresso machine, even though I have one at my house that I continually don’t use.
After the iced latte, I had some plums and a lot of our salumis. We have ten different salumis as well, so I pretty much sampled them all.
Pretty much an empty day, until I ate something called schiacciata. It’s basically a sweet foccacia with grapes and rosemary. We do regional prix fixe lunch menus downtown that we’ll also be doing uptown. That’s going to be part of the dessert in an upcoming menu for Tuscany.
Then I think I went home. I’ve been going home about 1, 1:30 a.m.
Wednesday, August 26
More lattes, more fruit: nectarines. That’s what I tend to start with, especially in the summer, since there’s such great fruit around. I’m not a big morning eater at all.
Then I had an escarole salad that’s on our menu, with pancetta vinaigrette, a soft-boiled egg, and Pecorino. I’m testing my cooks to see how well they’re making stuff.
I had some pasta, finally, which I haven’t been eating a lot of. I’m trying to cut back a little. It makes you really tired in the middle of the day. I ate a giant bowl of orecchiette, with roasted pork jowl, Parmigiano, and a really beautiful pork sauce that goes in it, with rosemary and garlic. It’s like comfort food, that particular dish.
It was a pretty light day, except when Jenny brought out her amazing chocolate-covered almonds with cinnamon and caramel that I eat by the handful. They’re in one of her desserts, an espresso-chocolate tart.