PARIS has Fauchon. Munich has Dallmayr. Milan has Peck. New York has the most extravagant hyperbole ever to ballyhoo a food shop.
The market being ballyhooed is modestly lowercased as "ddl foodshow," the first of what is intended to be a nationwide chain of ready-to-eat stores produced by Dino De Laurentiis, whose other credits include "The Bible," "War and Peace" and "King Kong."
Ddl, it turns out, is a rather nice food market, divided into showcased mini-markets of cold carryout foods, hot carryout, salmons and caviars, cheeses, pa te's, pastas, chocolates, hams and sausages, a bakery and an espresso bar for a quick sandwich and a drink. You could like ddl a lot if it hadn't been publicized as "one of the greatest Food Palaces in the world" and "the most lavish gourmet emporium in the western world."
Film people, De Laurentiis among them, are expected to paint the world in vivid colors. But in gray, harried New York a backlash was inevitable when advertisements promised at this new food market "an old-fashioned style of cooking that simply doesn't exist anymore." They promised "wild and savory pa te's . . . Waves of fresh seafood salads . . . 140 dazzling, specially prepared continental dishes." Cascades. Extravagances. "More heavenly than anything you've ever tasted."
Ddl posed the question in full-page ads: "Where in New York (or indeed anywhere) have you seen a wild boar, a whole lamb, wild game and a suckling pig roasting before your eyes on a giant spit?"
Not at ddl.
Four months after its opening, ddl is cooking chickens on its spits. Quail and rabbit on special order, said the man behind the meat counter. Haven't seen a boar, wild or tame.
The set is worthy of Hollywood: once a hotel atrium, still skylit with glassy arches, and trimmed in wood that could merit a library but holds shelves of vinegar. The 12,500-square-foot food store, which an average Safeway could swallow whole and have room for dessert, has been said to cost $3.5 million. The Columbus Avenue neighbors complain that their streets are becoming littered with limousines. Overwhelmed by the fumes of posh living, critics declare that a stroll through ddl makes them want to run right over to Zabar's to enjoy their gastronomia at wholesome prices in a down-home environment.
True, the spirit behind "La Strada" and "Bitter Rice" is now peddling peasanty pizza rustica at $18-plus a pound. But Italy, too, has survived the War. Ddl is not so absurdly capitalistic as to be pricing chicken salad at $22 a pound as reported.
In sum, ddl is neither the world-class extravaganza its promotion would have you believe nor the grossly hedonistic ripoff its press backlash reported.
It's a nice shop. It's pretty and tasteful with its under-glass displays of jeweled aspic mosaics and calligraphed catalogue of pastas. It is not cheap--not when ddl charges $3.25 a pound for flour and egg rolled into ribbons. But who else offers those ribbons in 14 flavors, from asparagus fettucine to saffron to garlic to chocolate? Yes, its breads escalate into sandwich prices--$2.50 to $5 a pound. But they are braided into pockets and filled with mozzarella and tomatoes, or drizzled with chocolate and stuffed with raisins and pine nuts, molded into animals and rolled into three-color pinwheels (don't ask about the taste when you're faced with pink and green bread).
You can shudder at smoked shrimp $1.25 each, or cringe at baby-blue caviar spread no matter what its cost. And if you have reached out to touch the squash flowers or inhale the goat cheeses openly displayed at Dean and DeLuca on Prince Street, or shouldered your way to the thoroughly ripe and runny cheeses at Zabar's rush-hour counter, you may find the heart and soul of ddl hopelessly imbedded in tile and glass. You might crow at the age-wrinkled Monday-morning salads or gloat over the suckling pig reduced to head and candied-cherry necklace but still presented in its decapitated state, if you have been waiting for the mighty to fall.
But there is good food to eat, and biting off your nose may spite your face but not fill your stomach. Ddl has winsome baby mozzarellas sliced in half and stuffed with cherry tomatoes or olives and peppers, strewn with fresh basil leaves. No mouth could resist. Its pizza may leave you wondering what ever happened to real pizza, but the pizza rustica--layers of spinach, ham, pimientos, cheese and a light golden pastry--reminds you of real Italy. The potato salad--$1.75 a pound--is a beauty, as is the seafood salad at 10 times the price. And cornish hen pie looks a mystery begging to unfold at $5; for the same price you can also find a pasta dinner complete with arugula salad and rice croquettes. The parmesan--$9.50 a pound--looks as craggy as Mont Blanc. And if shopping in a store modeled after a library doesn't sound tempting consider a pasta salad that can overcome your primavera boredom: tortellini in three colors tossed with salami, figs, dates, walnuts, pine nuts and slices of that grainy sharp parmesan. Now that's Italian. Or American. Or who cares--It's wonderful.
What else is occupying New York? Popcorn shops have eroded into the surf of Los Angeles, with not a one to be found. But they are reappearing in the East. New York has several, the newest being The Popcorn Man on 7th Avenue just above 42nd Street. Ice cream in homemade cones may tide it over until the public catches on to glazed corn in pina colada, fudge, amaretto and strawberry tones, or popcorn flavored with nacho cheese, pizza or rye. After a Saturday opening Monday-morning business showed promise, but the popcorn itself tasted like the downfall of the last "safe" snack.
The American food rage is turning into a polite cough if Star Spangled Foods, Manhattan's new all-U.S. food shop, is a barometer. The late-afternoon quiet allowed a leisurely look at the prepackaged American bounty of Moravian cookies, crisp and hefty King potato chips (the East Coast answer to Granny Goose chips), air-cured beef and dry jack cheese, Desert Rose salsa and goat cheese from--of all places--New Jersey. Proud crafts there are: dark green Napa olive oil, outsize shiny dried red peppers, chili powders in three or four serious brands. Maybe the world isn't ready for homestyle American at import prices. But there is a certain appeal in browsing shelves that say not "France" and "Italy" but "New England" and "California".
New Yorkers are spending their lunch hours enjoying the city's parks. But these are indoor, vertical parks, the picnic grounds being atriums in the city's new highrises. Trump Tower, on 5th Avenue at 56th Street, is five stories of pink marble under glass and reflected in tinted mirrors so it looks like Copenhagen's Tivoli Garden at sunset. A stroll up and down the escalators to the strains of piano and violin becomes the afternoon constitutional. And on the bottom floor cane and wicker tropical furniture substitutes for sitting under an apple tree. Lunch is catered by ddl foodshow, which intends to make Trump Tower its second location. So far it's just a matter of slim sandwiches on three-color bread or pocketed in white pizza, tiny and deliciously buttery fruit tarts and intense coffees (in Styrofoam cups that glare against the marble). And on the walls, signs promising "the most magnificent waterwall anywhere in the world." Sounds like ddl's ad writers are at it again.
The brown-baggers are picnicking under IBM trees. The full-size bamboo trees shade the atrium of IBM's new building at 56th Street between Madison and 5th Avenue. No grand promises or world's bests, just nice picnic tables in an indoor garden as large as the central square of many a city. Park Avenue Plaza, 52nd Street between Park and Madison, invites both picnickers and restaurantgoers to its Cafe Marguery, where continental breakfast fades into lunchtime buffet, then to afternoon tea. The promenade of tables has as one boundary a waterwall (certainly fashionable if not threatening to be "the most magnificent"), the other a field of tulips, with the sky above and city streets just beyond the doors.
New York may be graying on the outside, but it's laughing on the inside.
Here, from ddl foodshow, is a recipe for using chocolate pasta. DDL CHOCOLATE PASTA (4 servings) 1 pound chocolate pasta (recipe follows or substitute fresh white fettucine or linguine) 1/2 cup creme de cacao 1/2 cup chocolate chips 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries 1/2 cup dry golden raisins 1/2 cup kahlua Whipped cream for garnish
Boil pasta 1 1/2 to 3 minutes and drain. Place in a large bowl and mix with remaining ingredients except whipped cream. Top individual servings with a dollop of whipped cream and serve immediately for dessert. GIULIANO BUGIALLI'S CHOCOLATE PASTA (6 servings) 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 4 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 4 extra large eggs 2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil Pinch salt Coarse-grained salt
Combine flour and cocoa. Place in a mound on a pasta board. Use a fork to make a well in the center. Put the eggs in the well, then the oil and a pinch of salt. With a fork, first mix together the eggs, oil and salt, then begin to incorporate the flour from the inner rim of the well, always incorporating fresh flour from the lower part, pushing it under the dough that is forming to keep it from sticking to the board. Remove the pieces of the dough attached to the fork. Put the pieces of the dough together with your hands. Scrape the board with a pastry scraper, gathering together all the unincorporated flour as well as the pieces of dough coated with flour. Place this flour with the pieces of dough in a sifter. Resting the sifter on the board and using one hand, clean the flour by moving the sifter back and forth. The globules of dough will remain in the sifter screen and will not filter through. Discard. Start kneading the dough using the palm of the hand and folding the dough over with the other hand, absorbing the leftover flour from the board. Do not sprinkle the flour over the dough. Continue kneading for about 2 or 3 minutes, absorbing the flour until the dough is no longer wet and all but 4 or 5 tablespoons have been incorporated (the remaining flour will be used for a second kneading.
With the palm of your hand, flatten the ball of dough so it can fit between the rollers of a pasta machine (about 1/2 inch thick). Set the wheel for the rollers at the widest setting. Turning the handle, pass the dough through the rollers. With your hand remove the layer of dough from underneath the pasta machine. Holding the layer of dough with both your hands, gently flour one side of the dough by drawing it across the flour on the board. Fold the dough into thirds and press down with your fingers, starting from one open side toward the opposite open side, so that the three layers will be melded together and no air will remain inside between the three layers of dough. Using the same wide setting of the rollers, insert the open end of the folded layer of dough through the rollers. Repeat the rolling and folding 8 to 10 times, until the dough is very smooth and elastic. It is now ready to be stretched. To move the rollers to a narrower setting, press down the notch above the wheel on the side in order to release the rollers and with the other hand turn the wheel to the next setting.
Flour the layer of pasta on both sides by drawing it across the flour on the board. When feeding the layer of pasta into the machine, the position of your body is very important. Stand sideways in relation to the table and hold the handle of the machine with your right hand. Hold the other hand up sideways, keeping the four fingers together and holding the thumb out. Let the sheet of pasta rest over your hand between the first finger and the outstretched thumb. Pass the dough through the rollers once; do not fold any more. Move the wheel to the next notch, passing the dough through the rollers just once. After passing each time, sprinkle the layer of pasta with a little flour. Each successive notch will produce a thinner layer of pasta. Repeat this procedure until the layer reaches 1/8-inch thickness. Still letting the pasta hang over one hand, pull it out to its full length. It is now ready to be cut.
Stretch the layer of pasta to the last notch of the pasta machine. With a pastry cutter, cut the layer of pasta into pieces about 15 inches long. Let the pieces dry for about 15 minutes on a lightly floured pasta board. Attach the cutter to the machine. Insert the layer of pasta into the widest cutter and cut.
Place the cut pasta on a lightly floured pasta board to dry. Let the pasta stand on board, covered with dish towel, until needed.
Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Add coarse-grained salt to taste. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook for about 30 seconds after water has returned to a boil. Drain the pasta, toss with chocolate sauce and serve immediately.