Inside Molly Wizenberg’s New Memoir 'Delancey'
With restaurant fantasies, things only get dangerous when another person is involved.
There’s a reason Molly Wizenberg’s first memoir was titled A Homemade Life. The redheaded food writer first known for her blog Orangette built up her especially ardent fan base by recounting the meatballs and the muffins and marmalade cake that narrate her relationships and milestones and quotidian triumphs. Of course her name is now forever linked to Delancey, the smashing wood-fired pizzeria in Ballard conceived by her husband, Brandon Pettit. When a woman whose love of food is rooted in the kitchen table makes a life with a man who decides to serve pizza to the public for a living, the results are…worthy of a second memoir. And it’s peppered with many a familiar name from Seattle’s restaurant world.
This excerpt from Wizenberg’s latest, Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage (Simon and Schuster, May 6) revisits the night in 2007 when a conversation with Cafe Lago co-owner Carla Leonardi nudges the pizzeria from an abstract fantasy to a legitimate plan.
That Valentine’s Day, Brandon surprised me with a midweek getaway to Portland, making the most of my newly liberated schedule. He skipped school, and we drove three hours down the interstate and ate our way through town. On the night of Valentine’s Day, we went to Ken’s Artisan Pizza, a place we’d both read about. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple of local beers and a starter of wood-oven-roasted Brussels sprouts. When our pizza arrived, he threw his hands in the air. “Why isn’t there a place like this in Seattle?” he said.
“Wood-oven vegetables, great pizza, good beer—we would eat there every week! We would eat there every day! We should open a place like this.”
Brandon was always saying that kind of thing. I was getting used to it. I nodded in agreement, semiabsentmindedly. I mean, it would be nice if someone would open a restaurant like Ken’s in Seattle.
I look at it this way: it’s not illegal to think about committing a crime. You can think all you want. Things only get dangerous when you bring another person into it. You start having a conversation—What time would we go into the bank? Would we wear ski masks or Reagan masks?—and at some point you become guilty of conspiracy, even if you never actually do anything. That’s because once you get two or more people in on a crazy scheme, it’s a lot more likely to happen. You egg each other on. You find ways to sidestep seemingly impossible obstacles: security cameras, silent alarms, the fact that one conspirator has never owned a restaurant. Brandon thinks up a lot of crazy, and sometimes illegal, schemes. I listen, and I might even nod, but my temperament is less Bonnie Parker and more Bea Arthur on The Golden Girls. He’s thinking about a getaway car; I’m thinking that our hatchback is overdue for an oil change.
We got married in July of 2007. One night in October, over dinner at Cafe Lago, Carla and Brandon got talking about Pizzeria Bianco, the famous pizza place in Phoenix. They’d both been reading a spate of articles and awards lists that called it the best pizza in the United States, and maybe even in the world. They’d seen pictures of Chris Bianco’s pizzas, and they were impressed. They started kicking around some ideas, guessing at Bianco’s method and technique. Sometime between dessert and Carla cranking up Blondie on the stereo, a switch flipped. What came next was part joke, part boast, part dare, and all conjecture. With their powers combined, Brandon and Carla agreed, they could totally make pizzas like that. They could open a restaurant that would serve the best pizza anywhere.
Excerpt from Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. Copyright © 2014 by Molly Wizenberg. Reprinted by permission of Simon and Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.