Reminiscing about Mark’s doughnuts reminded me of Dean and DeLuca. When I first moved to NYC, I was introduced to the gourmet grocery. I lived in Noho and took a walk down Broadway and found heaven. Dean and DeLuca was an overwhelming feast to me. One look in the cheese case, and I was mesmerized. I bought a glass pasta container that I used to store peaches and wine. I took frequent trips here and to Balducci’s, another grocery that had the most beautiful red roast beef in town.
At the same time I interviewed Mark, I interviewed the manager of Dean and DeLuca, whilst pretending to be a reporter from The New York Times. (Francesco jokingly told his colleague I was from The New York Times.) I got a tour of the store and was excited as I got to go “backstage” and see its inner workings. Francesco was from Sicily, and of course, we talked about food. I told him I had found the best cannoli in NYC. He looked at me as if he didn’t believe this American knew anything about cannolis. He said there was a place in Brooklyn where he had found the best cannolis. “Villabate,” I said. Francesco nodded in disbelief. “Yes.”
I had been on a mission myself to find the best cannoli in the New York area. I had tasted many in Little Italy to other Italian neighborhoods in the city, to 18th Avenue in Brooklyn, to Hoboken, and beyond. Villabate was the best I had found, hands down. They also had delicious gelato. That is not to say I am knocking many other great cannolis, but there is just something when the cream and the crunch are right.
Dean and DeLuca itself didn’t have cannolis. I know that because I asked Francesco to deliver some for me. My plan was to send a novel I had written to a literary agency with a dozen cannoli delivered from Dean and DeLuca. I had read some outrageous story that Chris Farley sent a manager or agent some pizza. Francesco agreed to make the delivery if I were to buy the cannoli somewhere else. So I did. I gave Francesco the box of cannoli with my manuscript beneath it. He promptly delivered it to the agent I had chosen, a particular person at a snooty, hard-to-get literary agency.
That night, I got a phone call from the agent’s assistant. “So-and-so is at the summer house at the Hamptons but I will tell him you sent the cake. Thank you so much.” I didn’t know how to follow this up, as I did not know this agent and was just looking for my “in.” I called and told the secretary that I am glad they enjoyed the pastries, and that it was fine if So-and-so could get back to me whenever it was convenient.
I never heard back from So-and-so. And this is why Dean and DeLuca needs to make its own cannoli, as I’m sure the cream and the crunch of the cannolis I bought just wasn’t right.