Restaurant Royalty Max Tucci Shares the Secrets of Delmonico’s

DINNER WITH STYLE
Max Tucci comes from restaurant royalty, and now he’s sharing their secrets

Today we take for granted having our pick of all kinds of cuisines served in beautifully designed restaurants here in town. Max Tucci, grandson of the owners of Delmonico’s, the first fine-dining restaurant in New York City, remembers growing up in Greenwich when it wasn’t that way (think Chopping Block, Hunan Gourmet, Friendly’s and The Chili Station as mainstays).

“The scene wasn’t as glamorous as it is today,” he says, recalling the mid-’80s when his father opened a Greenwich location of Delmonico’s. “He was one of the founding fathers of this yellow brick road of fine dining in Greenwich.

 

above left: Max at six already working at the restaurant; bottom left: A sketch of the Greenwich restaurant; middle: Mario at the family villa in Italy; right: 1953 menu cover depicting the iconic New York City building

Max grew up as part of the Delmonico’s restaurant family, feasting on dishes such as Lobster Newberg and wedge salads (invented by his grandfather), coercing the pastry chef into whipping up soufflés and Baked Alaskas for him and his sister, Nicoletta, and learning about hospitality from a man famous for saying, “All are welcome at my table.”

In Max’s recent book The Delmonico Way: Sublime Entertaining and Legendary Recipe From the Restaurant that Made New York, he celebrates the history of this venerable dining establishment while sharing recipes and tips in hopes of igniting a home entertaining renaissance.

left: Gina, Mario, Nicoletta and Max with the Delmonico limousine. right: Max’s father, Mario

“When you look through this kaleidoscope of what Greenwich has to offer, yes, there are restaurants to go out to, but the reason for the book is to bring that elegance home again—to invite your neighbors over, especially in Greenwich where people have such beautiful homes. Entertain and not just a cocktail party, do fabulous dinners and source things in Greenwich,” Max advises, from a local butcher or a seafood shop like Bonton or The Lobster Bin.

Max’s interest in excellent food and hospitality is rooted in family. His grandfather Oscar had admired the Delmonico’s building and bought it in 1925, wanting to be a part of its legacy (the original Delmonico’s having opened in 1827). Though Delmonico’s was known for serving fine French fare, the Tucci family introduced some Italian to the menu, bringing in truffles, prosciutto, wild boar, bisteca Florentina. As an anchor on Wall Street, the restaurant located in the Financial District became the go-to place for power lunches and attracted all kinds of celebrities and dignitaries: Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Lena Horne, Rock Hudson, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor all ate there.

left: Delmonico’s steak with Bordelaise sauce; right: Wedge salad with figs

In the 1980s, when there was an increase in crime in downtown New
York and people were spending less time there, Max’s father saw an opportunity to bring Delmonico’s to Greenwich, which he viewed as the new Uptown. “He took a leap of faith
by introducing fine dining to Greenwich,” says Max. “Greenwich already had all of these gentlemen who were prominent on Wall Street, had their homes here. He knew he had his clientele.”

His father opened Delmonico’s at 55 Arch Street (formerly Cinque en Cinque), and pulled out all the stops with the first-floor fine dining room swathed in silk tablecloths, a gallery of collectible art, Christofle silverware—even the ashtrays were Lalique—and a more casual Grill Room decked in an equestrian theme.

left: Max having a little fun at Delmonico Farm in North Salem; right: Halayne McNorton, Red Buttons, Eva Gabor, and Richard Brown in the Palm Room in 1959

“Greenwich Del became my playground. I grew up in the kitchen there,” Max says. “My sister and I had a very short-lived moment of doing coat check. I remember tossing some expensive furs on the floor and making a fort until my mother found us and said, You’re never doing that again. ” His father enjoyed success for several years, figuring out every way to cater to clients. He purchased a fleet of Cadillacs from Jack Grassi, and he would have drivers take clients to New York and back or home from the bar in Greenwich, if needed. “He was doing Uber before Uber,” Max says. “There’s a great illustration my father did that said, ‘We don’t care how you get here, but we do care how you leave.’ ”

At a recent birthday celebration for Ashley Longshore: Standing: Ron Dodd, Dolly Fox, Ashley Longshore, John Michael Smith Jr. Seated: Harol Baez, Keith Backer, Max

This chic spot was short-lived. Tragically, Max’s father had a stroke and passed away in 1987, and the restaurant closed. In The Delmonico Way, Max shares with readers the rich history of the restaurants (New York and Greenwich) and classic cocktails and recipes for people to recreate. Notably, Delmonico’s New York has been renovated to restore its old glory and is recently reopened; Max is on the team, as third generation partner and Global Brand Officer. Yes, Lobster Newberg and Baked Alaska are on the menu.

RECIPE TO TRY

CHERRIES JUBILEE
It was actress Marlene Dietrich’s favorite. “It’s so simple that anybody can do it. Because it has the flambé aspect, it’s theatrical. It’s so versatile you can put it on anything— ice cream or cheesecake, a topping for desserts—but it’s also a dessert in itself. It’s literally cherries, sugar, lemon and vanilla seeds. Imagine a server coming to the table wearing his bow tie and pressed white shirt, and he’s flambéing these cherries in a copper pan. That’s what food is: Art that hits all the senses.”

LOCAL RESTAURANT PICKS

NEW YORK FAVORITES

• Polo Bar “Nelly, the director of hospitality, understands ‘all are welcome at the table.’ It’s about the whole experience, how are you treated.”
• La Goulue
• Donohue’s “A 1950s hole in the wall” for the best pork chops”
• Bella Blue for lobster pasta
• Papas for Greek
• Sei Less Chinese “It’s got quite the vibe, hip-hop with Chinese food.”

GREENWICH AREA FAVORITES

• “Chef Adrien at Orienta created his version of Lobster Newburg that I love. Black Forest Bakery is so good. And Pasta Vera on the Avenue.”
• Cenadou Bistro in North Salem
• The Farmer & The Fish in Purdys
Baldanza at The Schoolhouse in Wilton
• Emilio Ristorante in Harrison
• Walter’s Hot Dogs in White Plains and Mamroneck
• Luc’s in Ridgefield
• Chin’s Table in New Canaan

Family photographs and illustration courtesy of the Delmonico Family; Food photography by Jennifer Arce, from the Delmonico Way; Party photos by Andrew Werner; florist: Elan Flowers;


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