There was a time when dining out was a glamorous affair when everyone dressed up for a truly magnificent experience, especially in New York City. Oscar Tucci and his family owned and operated Delmonico’s from 1926 to the late 1980s, making it a beacon of fine dining. His grandson Max Tucci, who lived this life of fine dining, has captured all of its unique eras in his new book. Recently released, The Delmonico Way: Sublime Entertaining & Legendary Recipes from the Restaurant that Made New York! tells a unique story of the American dream of immigrants from Italy.
Located in the heart of Wall Street, Delmonico’s has defined great dining from 1827 to the 1980s, shaping New York City’s restaurant scene while expanding its influence globally. Delmonico’s, under the ownership of Oscar, taught, created, and paved the way for some of the most notable restauranteurs in the world. Notable names include Sirio Maccioni, Tony May, and Lello Arpaia. These legendary restaurateurs introduced Chef Daniel Boulud; Chef Scott Conant; Donatella Arpaia; Marisa May; and Mauro, Mario, and Marco Maccioni. The Tucci family created a great legacy of fine dining and thus set the standards of the experiences of fine dining, hospitality, and service to America.
Each chapter is organized around a style of dining that Delmonico’s pioneered or perfected under Oscar’s proprietorship. This includes how to host an impressive power lunch featuring Oscar’s creation, the signature wedge salad. The perfect romantic dinner for two is created with a show-stopping seafood tower and ribeye Bordelaise. A glamorous cocktail soirée before a night on the town is complete with oysters Rockefeller and shrimp cocktail.
The Delmonico Way includes over 70 recipes, including two from the restaurant’s most famous alumni, Sirio Maccioni’s Pasta Primavera and Tony May’s trademarked Uovo Raviolo.
Check out Sirio’s creation of the recipe for Pasta Primavera on pages 188-189. Tony May’s trademarked Egg Yolk Ravioli with Truffles is on page 159. Chef Andrew Zimmern’s Salmon Tomato Aspic recipe is on page 155. Chef Amy Simpson’s Chilled Tomato Soup with Deviled Crab & Corn Fritters can be found on page 62. Chef Eric Bertoia’s Brioche recipe is on page 185, and Chef Ranveer Brar’s Laal Maas is on page 187.
In addition to the fine fare, the chapter, The Bar, features sophisticated cocktails that include the classic Delmonico, a legendary Negroni with a Delmonico way twist, and the festive Spencer cocktail created by artist Ashley Longshore’s grandmother.
Mix a perfect cocktail with Andrew Scrivani’s Old New York on page 32 and Paul Zahn’s Gilded Age Classic, the Modern Delmonico, on page 29.
Under the original ownership of the Delmonico Brothers, Pietro and Giovanni, Delmonico’s introduced so many concepts. This included the first farm-to-table concept, à la carte dining—complete with white tablecloths and menus—and most notably, the phenomenon known as the power lunch. Unfortunately, despite Delmonico’s triumphs, the impact of World War I and the Prohibition era caused the family to cease operations and shutter in 1923.
Then a new era for Delmonico’s occurred in 1926 when Oscar, a Tuscan immigrant, took over its ownership. He demonstrated his business savvy by buying the entire building. He first re-established Delmonico’s as a speakeasy. Oscar then continued the Delmonico brothers’ tradition, transforming it into a beacon of fine dining. There was a strict code of hospitality, etiquette, and operations coupled with legendary libations and superb fare known as The Delmonico Way. After six decades of operations in both New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut, the Tucci Family closed Delmonico’s in the late 1980s.
The Delmonico Way remains a living legend influencing generations today and into the future, creating the bar for fine dining and a record of past decades. Max opens wide the double doors of his family’s Delmonico’s, welcoming readers into this world. Max, along with his celebrity chef friends, offers timeless recipes, and Max shares his tips for recreating the magic of The Delmonico Way at home.
“I have been writing this book for 15 years,” explains Max. “Inspiration surrounds me. I grew up in this beautiful world in a restaurant called Delmonico’s. I always knew that Delmonico’s was a part of my legacy, and that inspired me to write the book. I also have memories of my father and me in the kitchen of Delmonico’s. My family and ancestors are my biggest inspiration and to write this book gives me great joy, but I have to admit there were times that I wondered if I would ever finish this book.”
His aunt Mary and mother Gina kept all of the memorabilia of Delmonico’s over the decades. This started when Oscar first purchased Delmonico’s; they kept everything left behind, including menus printed on silk from the Royal Family of The United Kingdom. This was the beginning of their phenomenal collection. His aunt Mary would keep all of the newspaper clippings, photographs, guest books, as well as the many stories of this legendary restaurant. His aunt Mary (father’s sister) was the first woman to control finances for a restaurant in New York City. She was known as “the iron fist, with a lace glove” but was the right person for the job.
“This became my inspiration as I was going through the collection as an adult,” Max explains. “There were these incredible photographs and my aunt’s diary documenting all of this with this epic collection.
Through writing the book and his own experience, Max learned so much about the restaurant industry, old Hollywood, and the history of Delmonico’s.
“I credit Maya Angelou and her quote, ‘When You Learn, Teach.’ I am grateful to teach and share growing up the Tucci and The Delmonico Way. This is what I want people to take away from reading the book ways to entertain guests, become a wonderful host and a loved guest, learn about our past through Delmonico’s, and ways to celebrate life. My grandfather would welcome all to his table and was an ally for everyone.”
This would include Christine Jorgensen, the first transgender woman who would publically discuss her transition in a New York Daily News front-page story in the 1950s.
The restaurant featured a Steinway Grand Piano, along with a cellist and accordionist in the main dining room known as “The Palm Room.” His grandfather adored Lena Horne, and she was one of many to serenade the patrons.
As for the old-school politicians, when Richard Nixon was president, he called Oscar “Papa Oscar” and loved their coffee so much that Oscar would send a Delmonico’s coffee urn to the White House. Delmonico’s has served every president since Abraham Lincoln.
Delmonico’s was never a steakhouse but fine cuisine, exquisite dining, and a sophisticated place to see and be seen as it encapsulates decades of the history of American society.
“Delmonico’s always changed with the times but remained a magical place,” says Max. “It is always about the grandeur and splendor, ups and downs and trials and triumphs and victory. It also taught restauranteurs of today how to be successful restauranteurs.”
The Delmonico Way: Sublime Entertaining & Legendary Recipes from the Restaurant that Made New York! is an American dream story along with 70 great recipes (including cocktails), tips on how to serve like Oscar, how to become The Delmonico Way, and learning about the past to prepare for the present and future.
Max Tucci will be autographing his book at several signings, and the book is available on www.rizzoliusa.com Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target, in addition to other online retailers and local bookstores nationwide.
For more info and other book signings, visit penguinrandomhouse.ca. Follow Max on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @ maxtucci and @ thedelmonicoway.