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Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

4.6 9
by Molly Wizenberg

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In this funny, frank, and tender new memoir, the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the blog Orangette recounts how opening a pizza restaurant sparked the first crisis of her young marriage.

In this funny, frank, tender memoir and New York Times bestseller, the author of A Homemade Life and the blog Orangette


In this funny, frank, and tender new memoir, the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the blog Orangette recounts how opening a pizza restaurant sparked the first crisis of her young marriage.

In this funny, frank, tender memoir and New York Times bestseller, the author of A Homemade Life and the blog Orangette recounts how opening a restaurant sparked the first crisis of her young marriage.

When Molly Wizenberg married Brandon Pettit, he was a trained composer with a handful of offbeat interests: espresso machines, wooden boats, violin-building, and ice cream–making. So when Brandon decided to open a pizza restaurant, Molly was supportive—not because she wanted him to do it, but because the idea was so far-fetched that she didn’t think he would. Before she knew it, he’d signed a lease on a space. The restaurant, Delancey, was going to be a reality, and all of Molly’s assumptions about her marriage were about to change.

Together they built Delancey: gutting and renovating the space on a cobbled-together budget, developing a menu, hiring staff, and passing inspections. Delancey became a success, and Molly tried to convince herself that she was happy in their new life until—in the heat and pressure of the restaurant kitchen—she realized that she hadn’t been honest with herself or Brandon.

With evocative photos by Molly and twenty new recipes for the kind of simple, delicious food that chefs eat at home, Delancey is a moving and honest account of two young people learning to give in and let go in order to grow together.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wizenberg, Seattle food blogger and author of The Homemade Life, delineates the courageous—or hare-brained—impulse by her new husband, Brandon, to start a pizzeria, which they would name Delancey, in the up-and-coming Seattle neighborhood of Ballard during the chill of the 2009 recession. Brandon, who hails from New Jersey, was a grad student in music at the University of Washington with ample talents and restless energy for building (violins, boats) and also cooking. His favorite New York pizzeria, Di Fara, proved his inspiration to try his hand at creating an enterprise from scratch, and when his partner bailed out on him, the author, now his wife, stepped in, but reluctantly. Wizenberg had just published her first memoir and wanted to concentrate on writing; yet the demands of a fledgling restaurant proved irresistible and all-consuming, including the “one million steps between signing a commercial lease and opening the door to the public.” Wizenberg’s narrative is rich in such details, from the finding of financial backing, the construction of their small space in Ballard, the design by a Bay-area cousin, installation of the all-important wood-burning pizza oven, to the hiring of several servers—not to mention the tiny details the author obsessed about in the preparation and plating of salads and vegetables, which was her lamentable station. Her fun and engaging narrative encompasses recipes, an odd assortment of the familiar (meatloaf) and the earnest (ricotta), undergirding overall what is an industrious, youthful effort at keeping marital harmony. (May)
co-founder of Food52 and author of The Essential New York Times Cookbook - Amanda Hesser
"Molly Wizenberg writes with the sweet candor of Laurie Colwin and the sly amusement of M.F.K. Fisher. Delancey is the perfect restaurant tale -- gripping, nutty, and yet somehow meant to be."
Poor Man's Feast - Elissa Altman
"Delancey is the extraordinary tale of what it means to build a life with the person you love, and the professional roller coaster ride that is opening and running a wildly successful restaurant together. Molly Wizenberg has, in her inimitable way, written a modern love story that marries razor-edged wit to warmth, and passion to flavor; Delancey is an utterly delicious read."
author of My Paris Kitchen - David Lebovitz
"You might think making pizza is a piece of cake (or pie!) But Molly Wizenberg’s tale of triumph as she and her husband learn to make the perfect pie, and construct the restaurant to serve it in, make for delicious – and dramatic – reading. Told with humility and humor, Delancey shows that with hard work and determination, dreams can come true . . . no matter what obstacles lie in your way."
author of Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites - Kate Christensen
"Delancey is so riveting, well-written, and interesting, I found myself wishing it were twice as long. Molly Wizenberg writes as well about life as she does about food. Her voice is so charming and funny and poignant, it made me want to invite myself over to her place for dinner, where I would certainly overstay. I loved this book."
author of A Place at the Table - Susan Rebecca White
"Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey is so much more than a memoir about opening a highly regarded pizza restaurant. It is a story about building a marriage and a beloved community through grit, thrift, and self-determination in the pursuit of excellence. Ultimately this is a story about whole-heartedly embracing the one you love without trying to smooth away the rough edges or edit out the hard parts. It is also a most delicious read (with recipes!) that sent me to the kitchen as soon as I turned the final page."
"A crave-worthy memoir that is part love story, part restaurant industry tale. Scrumptious.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“When I sit down with Molly Wizenberg’s writing, it feels as though she’s just across the counter, coffee cup in hand, sharing an intimate truth….Inspiring, entertaining and informative, [Delancey] is a satisfying read.”
USA Today
"You'll feel the warmth from this pizza oven...affectionate...cheerfully honest...warm and inclusive, just like her cooking."
Boston Globe
"Wizenberg shines as a writer. She brilliantly turns the ups and downs of their do-it-yourself project into a compelling yet hilarious narrative....Like dipping into a lively, keenly observed diary....Charming."
Coastal Living
"You will cheer for Wizenberg...and her husband as they navigate the exciting and sometimes treacherous task of opening a Seattle pizza shop--and try to build a marriage too, in this honest, sprightly memoir."
Christian Science Monitor
"The messy, explosive, and exhilarating story of giving birth to a restaurant...draws readers right into the heat of the kitchen."
Dinner: A Love Story
"What makes this story so readable...is that it doesn't just chronicle the nuts and bolts of starting a restaurant. It's as much about navigating a new marriage, figuring out what kind of life you want to make together and what roles you want to play in life together."
Sweet Amandine
"It's about how the things we make, make us. It's also about discovering our stories as we live them, learning to understand them, and ourselves through them. Oh, and it's about pizza too."
Amateur Gourmet
"Illuminates the restaurant experience in a way that was entirely new to me....Molly's gift is to walk you through the process while simultaneously broadcasting her own emotional journey...honest and essential."
"Charming, funny, and honest--in a hip, understated way--Wizenberg combines simple, appealing recipes with a tale of how nurturing her husband's passion project helped her see him, and herself, more clearly."
"Honest, humorous, and endearing."
starred review Booklist
"Charming...Humorous, intimate, and honest."
"Entertaining and wondering and plainspoken...full of the hard work and trial and error of emerging into adulthood."
Kirkus Reviews
A popular food blogger and her husband open a Seattle pizzeria, testing the limits of their marriage in the process. For years, Wizenberg (A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009) has been charming readers with her blog, Orangette, an enviable world full of vintage wood, rustic tableware and beautifully photographed recipes. It was through her blog that she also found her husband, a pizza-addicted New Yorker who, upon joining her in Seattle, missed his beloved Brooklyn pizzeria, Di Fara. When he proposed that they open their own restaurant, named Delancey, the author was on board, though neither had considered how back-breakingly hard that dream was going to be. Literally building from the ground up, the couple suddenly had to contend with "shot-blasting" concrete floors, impressing health department inspectors, creating a wood-burning oven entirely from scratch, and finding a place to store 30 vinyl chairs, bought at auction from a bowling alley. Just about to run out of startup money, they eventually opened, but the troubles were hardly over—as it turns out, hiring and managing a staff also isn't as harmonious as they'd hoped. For Wizenberg, who'd been juggling her first book launch with supporting her husband's dream, something had to give. After a particularly contentious night, she decided that the only way to save the restaurant and her marriage was to recuse herself from the equation. As always, Wizenberg is at her best when discussing the food, and though she quickly determines how small a part of restaurant ownership that is, she still manages to sprinkle fairy dust on everything—from the homemade cold meatloaf sandwiches she makes after a hard day of construction to the Vietnamese rice noodle salad she was inspired to create after months of similar takeout lunches. A pleasantly rendered if not earth-shattering reality check for anyone with restaurant-owning envy.
Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
Food writer and creator of the popular blog Orangette, Wizenberg (A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table) recounts the birth of her husband's Seattle restaurant, Delancey, in this charming memoir. After the couple married, Wizenberg's husband, Brandon, a musician, considered a number of career paths, from building violins to opening an ice cream shop. When he announced that he was going to start a pizza restaurant, Wizenberg assumed that this was yet another fantasy. But it became apparent that Brandon was going forward with his plan, and the two immersed themselves in the restaurant's creation. Neither knew what they were doing; finding a location, remodeling the site, testing recipes, and hiring staff were all new challenges. Once Delancey opened, both found themselves working long, hectic hours on little sleep. Wizenberg candidly describes her fears and doubts, as well as her struggles with trying to be a supportive wife. Recipes of favorite foods that the author and her husband turned to for comfort and in celebration are included. VERDICT This humorous, intimate, and honest story of the creation of a restaurant and the strengthening of a marriage will appeal to fans of food memoirs.—Melissa Stoeger, Deerfield P.L., IL

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt



If you want to get Brandon’s family talking, you need only ask about his childhood tantrums, aaannnnnnnd they’re off! Their descriptions are sufficiently vivid that you’d think he’d had a screaming meltdown in the family car last week. But if you ask Brandon about his tantrums, he’ll tell you that he was constantly hungry, and that low blood sugar will bring out the wailing, shrieking lunatic in anyone. When he was eight or nine, he taught himself to cope by cooking. And his parents, who weren’t especially interested in cooking, rewarded his initiative, because in the Pettit household of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, whoever cooked dinner didn’t have to do the cleanup afterward.

Anyway, while most of his peers were off wrestling in the yard, breaking things, or lighting household pets on fire, Brandon got a lot of positive attention for cooking. His uncle Tom offered to teach him how to make a few dishes, and so did his mother’s friend Ellen. His best friend Steve’s mother, Laura, taught him how to make penne alla vodka when he was in middle school. Afterward, before he went home, she dumped out a small Poland Spring water bottle, refilled it with vodka, and gave it to him so that he could make the recipe for his parents. His mother found it in his backpack later that night, and you know how that story goes.

Meanwhile, I grew up 1,500 miles to the west, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the only child in a family so preoccupied with cooking and eating that we would regularly spend dinner discussing what we might eat the following night. My parents met in Baltimore and courted over oysters and pan-fried shad roe, and though they had lived in the land of waving wheat and chicken-fried steak since a few years before I was born, they took pleasure in introducing me to lobster, croissants, and Dover sole. My father was a radiation oncologist, and he worked full-time until he was nearly seventy, but most evenings, after pouring himself a Scotch and thumbing absentmindedly through the mail, he made dinner. It wasn’t necessarily fancy—there were hamburgers and salad and cans of baked beans, and his macaroni and cheese involved a brick of Velveeta—but the kitchen was where he went to relax, to unwind from a day of seeing patients. He was a good cook. My mother is also a good cook, a very good cook, but I think of her mostly as a baker. She made brownies and crisps and birthday cakes, and in our neighborhood she became something of a legend for the elaborate cookies and candies she made each Christmas. Food was how the three of us spent time together. Cooking and eating gave our days their rhythm and consistency, and the kitchen was where everything happened. As a baby, I played on the floor with pots and spoons while my mother cooked. The three of us sat down to dinner at the kitchen table nearly every night (except Thursdays, when my parents went out and left me with a Stouffer’s Turkey Tetrazzini and Julia Beal, the elderly babysitter, who always arrived with a floral-patterned plastic bonnet tied under her chin), and we kept up the habit (minus Stouffer’s and Mrs. Beal, after a certain point) until I went to college.

I started cooking with my parents when I was in high school. I was not what you would call a difficult teen: Friday night might find me baking a cake or holed up in my bedroom with my notebook of poems. If I felt like doing something really exciting, I might invite some friends over and make a rhubarb cobbler. When I was seventeen, Food Network came into existence, and then I spent hour after hour watching cooking shows, which fueled even more baking and a poem about immersing myself in a vat of Marshmallow Fluff.

Brandon’s teenage years were a little more interesting—he regularly handed in his homework late—but he too watched a lot of cooking shows. This was back in the golden age when you could actually learn something from Food Network—when David Rosengarten’s brilliant Taste was still on the air and Emeril Lagasse’s show was taped on a modest set without a studio audience, live musicians, or abuse of the word bam. Brandon learned about extra virgin olive oil on Molto Mario and balsamic vinegar on Essence of Emeril and begged his parents to add them to the grocery list. He once watched a show about soups during which the host reeled off a number of tricks for adding flavor and body: add a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind or a bouquet garni, for example, or drop in a potato, toss in some dried mushrooms, or simmer a teabag in the stock. Armed with this information, he decided to combine all of the tricks in a single soup, surely the greatest soup the world would ever know. The result, he reports, was very flavorful, like runoff from a large-scale mining operation.

Growing up, Brandon had four favorite pizza places: Posa Posa, Martio’s, and Michaelangelo’s, all in Nanuet, New York; and Kinchley’s, in Ramsey, New Jersey. Of course, every kid on earth loves pizza, and a lot of them probably have four favorite pizza joints. But I know of few eight-year-olds who want to interview the pizzaiolo. Brandon took dance classes as a kid, and the ballet studio was conveniently located a few doors down from Michaelangelo’s. After class, he would pummel the owner with questions. What’s in the dough? What do you put in the sauce? Why do you grate the mozzarella for the cheese pizza, instead of slicing it? In exchange for answers and free slices, he agreed to put coupons under the windshield wipers of cars in the parking lot out front.

But if it were all really that straightforward, if Brandon and I had both homed in on food from the get-go, and if he had known that he would be a chef and I had known that I would someday own a restaurant with my chef husband, this would be a boring story, and I would not be telling it.

Maybe even more than he loved to cook, Brandon loved to dance. His mother, wanting to expose her son to a little bit of everything, started him in dance classes as a very young kid, and by the time he was a preteen, he was on track to someday join a touring company. Down the line, he’d decided, he would be a choreographer. Choreography and cooking pushed the same buttons in him: they were both about making things, about taking a series of separate elements and assembling them in a particular sequence to make something appealing and new. As a middle schooler, he took upwards of eight hours of dance classes a week, and sometimes, depending on the season, he took as many as twenty. When he was twelve, he got into a prestigious summer program at the Pennsylvania Ballet school. Each afternoon, when he was supposed to be resting, he sneaked into the classes for older teens, where he got to partner with female dancers. This was the big time. One day, while doing some sort of move that you’re not supposed to do when you’re twelve, he fractured one of the vertebrae in his lower back. The upshot was that he couldn’t dance for the better part of a year, and as further punishment, he had to wear a plastic torso brace that made him look like Tom Hanks’s deranged secretary in Splash, the one who wore her bra over her clothes.

He couldn’t do anything that required much mobility, but he could still cook. He could also practice the saxophone. In addition to dance, he’d taken music lessons—piano and saxophone—since he was a kid. Now, while sidelined from ballet, he began to practice for hours a day. After school, he’d go down to the basement, put on Pink Floyd’s “Money,” and play along, over and over, with the sax solo that starts at 2:04. Or he’d go to Tower Records and fish around in the discount bin for classic R&B and blues CDs, Charlie Parker or T-Bone Walker, and then he’d play along to those too. He sometimes went to the ballet studio to watch a class, to try to keep his head in it, but he began to notice that, maybe more than the physical movement itself, what he liked about dance was the music. Music was underneath all of it.

By the time he started thinking about college, he was spending most of his non-school hours playing the saxophone, and when he wasn’t playing the saxophone, he was cooking. He thought about going to culinary school instead of college, but he’d been a vegetarian since birth—his parents, siblings, and most of his extended family are vegetarian—and while he didn’t want to cook meat, he also wasn’t interested in seeking out a specialized vegetarian culinary school, which seemed limiting in the long run. Anyway, he would always cook, he reasoned, whether or not he was a trained chef. He would always need to eat. But if he wanted to keep at his music, and if he wanted to go somewhere with it, he would need formal training. So he decided to try for a conservatory slot in saxophone, upping his practice schedule from a couple of hours a day to three or four. There’s a video taken around that time, at his high school’s Battle of the Bands. I wish you could see it. Brandon is seventeen, singing lead and straddling the sax in a band called “Ummm . . . ,” and he’s deep in his Jim Morrison phase, with dark sunglasses, long curly brown hair, and his shirt unbuttoned to the navel, for which he would later get detention.

The following year, he moved to Ohio as a freshman at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. He declared a major in saxophone performance, but the urge to make something—not just memorize and perform a piece of music that someone else had made—was still there, and in his second year, he added a minor in music composition. After graduation, he moved to New York to work on a master’s at Brooklyn College Conservatory, sharing an apartment in Manhattan with a violinist and an opera singer. Meanwhile, I had left Oklahoma City and headed west to Stanford, where I studied human biology and French and was frequently asleep in my dorm room bunk bed by ten o’clock, though I did flirt with rebellion by cutting my hair short, dyeing it calico, and stealing pre-portioned balls of Otis Spunkmeyer cookie dough from the freezer of my dining hall. When I graduated, I spent a year teaching English in France before moving to Seattle in 2002 to start graduate school in anthropology at the University of Washington.

Brandon and I met in 2005, when a friend of his suggested that he read Orangette, the food blog that I had started the previous summer. He did, and then he sent an e-mail to pass on a few choice compliments that evidently were very effective. He described himself as “a musician (composer) getting my master’s part-time in NYC, while being a full-time food snob / philosopher / chef.” Let’s ignore the snob / philosopher part; he was only twenty-three, so he gets a pass. But the chef part! He was referring, I would learn, to his part-time job as a cooking-and-grocery-shopping go-fer for a wealthy uncle, and to the fact that he liked to have friends over to dinner. But, people: I should have seen it. This man was not going to be a composer. By the second letter, he was describing the smell of flaming Calvados on crêpes, and to explain what type of music he wrote, he offered this:

I guess it’s considered classical. I usually write for choirs or orchestras or chamber groups, although sometimes I use electronics or make sound sculptures or installations. For a food analogy: I won’t make salads with raw chicken, lychee, pork rinds, and lemon zest with a motor oil, goat cheese, and olive oil dressing, just because no one has done it before. I try to make “dishes” that taste like nothing else, and taste good. Being a composer is really no different from being a chef or a choreographer.

I should have seen it, but I didn’t. And until a few months after we were married, I don’t think he did, either.


Meet the Author

Molly Wizenberg, winner of the 2015 James Beard Foundation Award, is the voice behind Orangette, named the best food blog in the world by the London Times. Her first book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, was a New York Times bestseller, and her work has appeared in Bon Appétit, The Washington Post, The Art of Eating, and The Guardian, and on Saveur.com and Gourmet.com. She also cohosts the hit podcast Spilled Milk. She lives in Seattle with her husband Brandon Pettit, their daughter June, and two dogs named Jack and Alice. She and Brandon own and run the restaurants Delancey and Essex.

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Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
nikki1CO More than 1 year ago
I loved Ms Wizenbergs's first book "A Homemade Life". Delancey does not disapoint. The writing is clear, honest, sometimes painfully so. tOne wonders at the courage it took to open a pizza restaurant & turn their lives upside down from what the author thought they would be. I so admire her courage in admitting that she didn't want to do it, realized that she was not happy being in the restaurant business but then came around to what made her happy. The writing is crystalline, a wonderful economy of words,but beautifully done. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about food, who enjoys a really human story with a happy ending, but you're not quite sure for a while!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Talks way too much about the preparations for opening the restaurant. I quit reading it.
Christine_Emming More than 1 year ago
As someone who's considered opening a restaurant, I picked this up in part out of curiosity about the nuts and bolts of the thing. Having read her first book, and followed Orangette for years, I would have read it regardless, but probably not pre-ordered. Well, it could have been three times longer and I'd have raced through at the same speed. Wizenberg's writing, as always, is succinct and often witty, and the story of both her restaurant and marriage an entertaining read.
DoranneLongPTMS More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book on several levels, including the recipes and other ingredient information. I also loved the behind-the-scenes of creating, starting, and running a restaurant, especially with our family of restaurant cooks. I appreciated her sharing, with honesty, of their difficulties, while keeping a sense of humor. I liked the last line of the book, regarding allowing spouses to flow their own way, and to be able to come together again. Thanks Molly, for sharing your life, marriage, and the restaurant.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cisley More than 1 year ago
I finished reading Delancey last night. I really enjoyed it. I had read Molly Wizenberg's first book A Homemade Life last year. Being familiar with the author, I bought this one without a second thought. Molly's first book was based more on her cooking/recipes. This book is a great primer for those interested in opening a restaurant. She lets the reader know just how expensive, difficult and time consuming it is, but not in a harsh way. Molly Wizenberg just has a way with words and I am looking forward to her next book. I live across the Puget Sound from Seattle, where her book is based, so that didn't hurt! One of these days my husband and I will have to make it over to Delancey's .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the fact that I live in Seattle and am a huge fan of this pizzeria makes me not have total objectivity about this book. But aside from that, the story grabs you and the writing is phenomenal. By the time you're close to the end, you'll be so invested in their story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago