Baking with Andreas and Rose

Winding down the restaurant has been more exhausting than I ever imagined.  My dear friend Andreas recently invited me to spend a weekend at his mother’s home on Long Island for some rest and relaxation.  Beautiful gardens and an inviting swimming pool surround her home.  How could I refuse?

Andreas is an accomplished baker – his family is full of professional bakers, so it’s in his blood.  Moreover, he recently completed extensive baking instruction at New York’s French Culinary Institute.  What better way to relax than enjoy the garden, the pool, and baking?

I met Rose Levy Beranbaum a few months ago when she began coming to Bellavitae at the recommendation of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.  Her cookbooks are well suited for every type of baker, from the novice (me) to the expert (Andreas).  I had success with bread recipes from Rose’s The Bread Bible, so I asked Andreas if we could try some desserts from The Pie and Pastry Bible.  He’s a fan of Rose’s so no convincing was necessary.

Here’s what we made:

Open-Faced Fresh Blueberry Pie (page 107)

There are several blueberry bushes on the property and the fruit is now at its peak.  This pie seemed like the perfect choice.  We put a twist on the recipe by using the crumb topping Rose uses on her Apple Crumb Pie (page 86).  We used her Basic Flaky Pie Crust (Page 22).

The dessert turned out beautifully – the pie’s star was undoubtedly the blueberries, which we had freshly picked.  No cloying sauce or heavy pastry to crowd out nature’s sweet gift to summer – fresh berries.  What a delight.

Classic Napoleon (page 453)

Gulp.  What dessert is more intimidating?  Or more satisfying!  I hadn’t had Classic Napoleon since the last time I vacationed at the Cala di Volpe.  This resort hotel on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda may very well have the best hotel lunch in the world.  The freshest, most carefully crafted cuisine still remains in my memory – including their Napoleon, which I had at least once a day (!)

Poolside lunch at the Cala di Volpe

The Napoleon is a combination of many French classics:

Classic Puff Pasty [Millefoglie in Italian] (Page 417)

Puff pastry seems to be the threshold over which all would-be pastry chefs must cross.  Once again, Rose guides you through the process with ease, anticipating any question or problem that may arise during your endeavor.  And yes, Rose, we gave the pastry a total of seven turns!

Poured Fondant (Page 581)

What used to be a painstaking process for this cream confection is now extraordinarily easy with Rose’s use of a food processor.

Pastry Cream [Crème Pâtissière] (Page 560)

Rose’s version of this classic custard is light but still flavorful due to her use of whole eggs (instead of just the yolks) and half-and-half (instead of heavy cream).  Fat tends to dull the palate, so a lighter pastry cream will allow other flavors of any dessert to shine (éclairs, fruit tarts, and of course Napoleons).

Chocolate Drizzle Glaze (Page 454)

As Rose suggests in other recipes, we used chocolate that had not too-high a percentage of cocoa – I think we used 52%.

Cooking – and baking – can be so relaxing.  And it’s a fun project to do with a dear friend.   Our two desserts turned out wonderfully and I just finished the last piece of the Napoleon today – it kept well refrigerated since Sunday.

So thanks Andreas and Rose (and Ingeborg and Wil).  I have a few new techniques under my belt!

By the way, Rose has one of the most helpful websites / blogs for baking and I highly recommend it.  She has developed a sizeable following of bakers that write in to offer comments and ask questions.  So if you cook from one of her books and get stuck, you can simply check out her blog for comments or even write in and wait for her to answer, something that is rare in the cookbook world.

Finally, here is what has to say about The Pie and Pastry Bible:

Reading about the ins and outs of baking the perfect, flaky pie crust is a little like reading about how to achieve the perfect golf swing: the proof is in the doing.  And it often takes a remarkably intuitive reader to understand exactly what the author is getting at.  Not so the work of Rose Levy Beranbaum, the author who gave us The Cake Bible.  If ever there was a cookbook author who could place her hands on top of yours, putting you through the proper motions, helping you arrive at just the right touch, Beranbaum is the one.

The Pie and Pastry Bible begins with the crust.  The author confesses right up front that 21 years ago, when she first began her quest for the perfect crust, “it was a complete mystery to me.”  She wasn’t looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but something she could consistently turn out at a moment’s notice.  The ideal pie crust, she writes, “has light, flaky layers, but also … is tender, and nicely browned, with a flavor good enough to eat by itself.”

In a book that stretches to about 700 pages long, her favorite pie crust is the first recipe:  Perfect Flaky and Tender Cream Cheese Pie Crust. Typically, Beranbaum lists the ingredients by measure and weight for three separate sizes of pies, then gives instructions for the food processor or by hand.

After 70 pages of pie crusts, tart crusts, and crumb pie crusts of every imaginable make and combination, Beranbaum starts with fruit pies.  Her first (of many) detailed charts shows exactly what her ratios are of fruit to sugar to cornstarch.  Then each recipe (start with The Best All American Apple Pie) includes pointers for success as well as several variations on the theme.  Under the headline “Understanding,” Beranbaum goes that extra mile by taking the trouble to explain just why something works the way it does.

If you are only going to own one cookbook for pie and pastry recipes of every imaginable stripe and combination, you can’t go wrong with this one.  It’s the Bible, after all.

–Schuyler Ingle



Six Magical Years

It’s been nearly six years since we signed our lease on Minetta Lane and prepared to open Bellavitae.  Looking back, many of our concepts seem cliché now, but at the time, we were one of the pioneers in New York’s restaurant scene.  Perhaps we were not always the first with these ideas, but Bellavitae undoubtedly influenced the city’s dining experience.  The sincerest form of flattery comes to mind, as many of our original concepts are ubiquitous now, such as:

  • The Chef’s Bar (we called it “the sushi bar” until the day we opened)
  • Cooking in a wood-burning oven (although we never did pizza)
  • Using only seasonal, organic, and local produce whenever possible
  • Dishes prepared for sharing, especially appetizers, in a non-tapas restaurant
  • A high-quality wine selection at every price point


When the recession hit in late 2007, we immediately began to change our model to reflect the new business environment (a Wall Street background helped).  I began to wear many more hats than before, and soon I was working well over 14 hours a day – every day.  Over the next two years, we found ourselves in a position where, in order to continue the restaurant in our current space and within negative economic conditions, we would need either to significantly raise our prices or lower our quality – neither of which appealed to me.  So in July of this year, I decided to close our location on Minetta Lane.

Our Amazing Guests

Thousands of people have visited Bellavitae over the years and, of course, scores of relationships now bless our lives.  The remarkable diversity of guests who came to Bellavitae reflected one commonality:  a love of good food and wine in the Italian style, prompting an almost cult following that has been simply magical.

We had the opportunity to develop friendships with many in the food and wine world; and were honored to serve numerous influential individuals, such as:

  • Eric Asimov
  • Dan Barber
  • Joe Bastianich
  • Mario Batali
  • Rose Levy Bernanbaum
  • Vince Calcagno
  • Marco Canora
  • Dana Cowin
  • Andrew Dornenberg
  • Florence Fabricant
  • Barbara Fairchild
  • Carol Field
  • Susan Friedland
  • Antonio Galloni
  • Ina Garten
  • Michael Gelb
  • Joshua Green
  • Dorie Greenspan
  • Amanda Hesser
  • Ray Isle
  • Nancy Jenkins
  • Sarah Jenkins
  • Anna Tasca Lanza
  • Sandra Lee
  • Silvano Marchetto
  • Tom Matthews
  • Jay McInerney
  • Keith McNally
  • Danny Meyer
  • Karen Page
  • Judy Rodgers
  • Regina Schrambling
  • Tom Sietsema
  • Nancy Silverton
  • Beatrice Ughi
  • Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Mary Ellen Ward
  • Alice Waters
  • Patricia Wells
  • Lora Zarubin


I’ve never been star struck, but it was always fun to have famous people in the restaurant, many of whom became regulars.  Previously, I respected their privacy by not publicizing their patronage, but now it seems appropriate to include them in my reminiscing:

Authors / Publishing World

  • Amy Arbus
  • Candace Bushnell
  • Michael Cunningham
  • Joan Didion
  • Peter Gethers
  • Robert Hughes
  • Sara Matthews
  • Kirk Russell
  • Leanne Shapton
  • Anna Wintour


Journalists / Columnists

  • Dan Abrams
  • Alan Colmes
  • Ann Coulter
  • David Gregory
  • Phil Griffin
  • Tom McDonald
  • Peggy Noonan
  • Frank Rich
  • Harry Smith
  • Leslie Stahl
  • Cal Thomas




Bono with Gisella and Cristiano


  • Charles Askegard
  • Noah Baumbach
  • Boatie Boatwright
  • Bono
  • Beth Broderick
  • Matthew Broderick
  • Josh Brolin
  • Kathleen Chalfant
  • Ethan Cohen
  • Joel Cohen
  • Carmen Consoli
  • Willem Dafoe
  • Claire Danes
  • Dana Delany
  • Susan Dey
  • Janet Dickinson
  • The New York Giants
  • William Goldman
  • Hazelle Goodman
  • Heather Graham
  • Joel Grey
  • Marvin Hamlish
  • Jill Hennessy
  • Celeste Holm
  • William Hurt
  • Marketa Irglova
  • Michael Keaton
  • Richard Kind
  • Michael Kors
  • Diane Lane
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh
  • Annie Liebovitz
  • Anne Meara
  • Marlene Matlin
  • Francess McDormand
  • Bette Midler
  • Nicole Mitchell
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan
  • Mike Myers
  • Gianna Nannini
  • Mary Louise Parker
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Pink Martini
  • Jean Reno
  • Alan Rickman
  • Paul Rudd
  • Keri Russell
  • Paul Shaffer
  • Molly Shannon
  • Allen Shawn
  • Wallace Shawn
  • Phoebe Snow
  • Bernard Sofronski
  • Jerry Stiller
  • Julia Stiles
  • Hillary Swank
  • Billy Bob Thornton
  • Bob Vila
  • Bruce Vilanch
  • Frank Wood



Occasionally we held events at Bellavitae, and three stand out:


The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Judy Rodgers from San Francisco’s Zuni Café held a private dinner at Bellavitae and cooked some of her favorite dishes.  Her cookbook remains one of my favorites and I’ll always be grateful for her kind invitation to visit Zuni and cook for a few weeks before we opened Bellavitae.

Anna Tasca Lanza

A Night in Sicily was a memorable evening when Anna Tasca Lanza prepared dinner for guests and paired wines from the Regaleali estate with dishes that came from her various cookbooks.  We named one of the dishes from that event in her honor, and the dish remained our menu’s number-one bestseller until the day we closed.

Perhaps the most memorable event was in the spring of 2007 when we invited the Tre Bicchieri winners to Bellavitae after their annual tasting at the Puck Building.  We prepared a great Italian feast and they brought their award-winning wines – and what a night it was.  I don’t remember the menu now, but I do remember most of those who attended, and I’m not sure there has ever been a collection of such prestigious winemakers in one place outside of Italy that wasn’t some sort of promotion.  This was all about having fun.  I don’t think the following is a complete list of those who attended, but it sure is an impressive one:



We simply had wonderful food, award-winning and incomparable wines, and great camaraderie.  How Italian is that?


On Becoming a Chef

What I’ve learned most through our experience on Minetta Lane is how difficult it is to prepare simple food in a restaurant setting.  The quintessence of traditional Italian cooking is its simplicity, along with proper technique and using the highest quality ingredients.

Eating in the Italian style is about celebrating the garden rather than “sophisticated” manipulation in the kitchen.  In traditional Italian cuisine, there are no complex sauces to hide behind, no short cuts on technique, and nothing available to mask improper balance or inferior ingredients.  Nevertheless, after six years, the ability to perform this challenging task consistently became almost second nature to us and it’s a skill that I now proudly think of as proprietary; it is perhaps my greatest personal asset.


There are too many individuals to thank for me to include in this post, and I hope to reach out to each person in the near future.  The many people who have come into my life because of Bellavitae touches my heart and will always be a part of my soul.  From staff to guests and to all of those listed above, I will be forever grateful.

I don’t think of Bellavitae as a destination, a restaurant, or even a way of life.  It’s simply a way of enjoying Italian food and wine.  So keep an eye on this blog, as I will continue to write about Italy’s greatest gift to the world.

So what happens next?  All I can say is look for Bellavitae in the future – and look in unexpected places.