Popular Chef David DiBari’s Newest Venture, The Parlor
Plus wood-fired oysters and A Day of Generosity.
First Taste: The Parlor
One way to consider Chef David DiBari’s newest venture, The Parlor, in Dobbs Ferry, is to think of this new pizzeria as David DiBari unchained. While The Cookery was merely mischievous when it dared to de-emphasize the accepted standards of Westchester’s Italian restaurants—say, thick tablecloths and pricy Barolos—The Parlor steps almost joyfully into the role of provocateur. On The Parlor’s corrugated, graffiti-tagged walls, you won’t find one inch of Carrera marble, and, just look around, here are no subway tiles. Instead, The Parlor’s décor is just what you bring to it. Literally. But for an underlayment of graffiti (itself, crowd sourced in a contest), The Parlor’s decor invites you to scrawl Your Name Here.
Adhering to the strict DIY ethos of punk, the design, and much of its execution, comes from the minds of The Cookery team. There were no professional designers consulted in this build-out, which goes into the Cedar Street space vacated by Orissa. DiBari himself, joined by his longtime girlfriend, Cathy Cercena, scoured the antiques fields of Brimfield, MA, for the worn cafeteria tables and Catholic girls’ school chairs that furnish The Parlor. A great deal of the construction was done by DoughNation standby Frank Sanchez, who will be helping DiBari at The Parlor’s wood-fueled oven. (The Cookery GM Ralph Rubino calls multitasking Sanchez, “The company’s Swiss Army Knife.”) Aside from some installed corrugated metal, the space’s walls have simply been stripped to whatever lay beneath. In some cases, that’s surreally juvenile wallpaper, in others, it’s bare brick and floor joists. A pictorial homage to Cercena (an image of her smiling lips) graces The Parlor’s wood-fueled oven. This is a restaurant created by and for its cooks.
The Cookery has always been noted for its pointedly anti-snob attitude toward wine, offering few expensive bottles (its highest price wine costs $60) and almost no oenophilic pretense. If this attitude is transgressive to some Westchester diners at The Cookery, then The Parlor’s all tap wine program may just put those folks over the edge. Look for several of The Gotham Project’s award-winning wines to join vintages from Unokeg. All are pulled from a tap system whose visible tubes lead to worn tanks chained to a post behind the bar. Says DiBari of what he sees as the “unnecessary” snobbery often associated with wine, “we’re anti-snob. Every a****** has his opinion and who wants to sit and look at a wine list for an hour. Sometimes fewer options are better. Plus, the wines that we’ve chosen go really well with this food—there’s something really out of whack in serving super expensive wines with what we’re doing here. There’s something about these wines that reminds me of the homemade wine that we used to drink in backyards.”
The Cookery’s GM, Ralph Rubino, says “We wanted to f*** a little bit with the public. The Parlor’s wine is all on tap and the beer is all in bottles or in cans.” The menu lists some decidedly uncraft labels listed under “American Classics”: Old Milwaukee, Pabst lager, and Schaefer, all in cans ($3), plus 40-ounce Colt 45 malt liquor, a high-alcohol bargain at $8. Says DiBari of some of less glorious inclusions on his beer list “I love craft beer more than anything, but it has been played out. Some of the lighter American beers—made with rice or whatever—should be part of the story. Some of these beers I can drink all day long.” More serious brews are countered in the menu under the heading, “Beers for the Beer Geek.” Its 15 labels range from $5 cans of Abita’s Purple Haze to $25 large-format bottles of Rare Vos from Ommegang. Taken together, the beer list is designed to suit any beer drinker with the noted exception of those wedded to taps.
Cocktails, spritzers, and boutique sodas are also a huge part of The Parlor. Don’t miss the house-bottled Classic Negroni, Classic Manhattan, and the Bee’s Knees (saffron-infused gin, honey simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice). All are served in miniature, bum-friendly hipflasks that would be perfectly at home in Charles Bukowski’s pocket, though pretty Marie Antoinette glasses are also presented with the petite, masking tape labeled flasks.
Chef DiBari is no stranger to employing the idioms of sex to describe his own food. But, while the carnal food at The Cookery may have been titillating, several dishes at The Parlor aim directly below the belt. Take wood-fired salmon collars whose melting flesh must be teased from slippery cartilage, or smoky, wood-fired oysters that pour bubbling hot pork juice and brine right down your throat. Then there are Parlor Pockets, a sort of Scotch egg with ricotta and truffle wrapped in pizza dough which, when split, oozes sticky yolk. On the lighter side, there is sparkling wood-roasted broccoli with kale and anchovy vin, or wood-fired gigante beans served in homey crocks.
If you have visited DoughNation, DiBari’s mobile, wood-fueled pizza truck, you will be familiar with the puffy, lightly charred discs that won its rabid fans. As at Doughnation, the mozzarella at The Parlor is made in-house, as is the delicately peppery smoked “pepperoni,” a softer and less waxy version of the standard pizzeria topping. There are several pies at The Parlor that you won’t see at DoughNation. Last week, we caught a pizza with Parmigiano, garlic, and mozzarella in which the grainy texture and brine of pickled hops made a fine foil for all that rich, soft cheese. Also look for smoked tripe with provolone and sage; or bone marrow with rosemary vincotto and Parmigiano.
To end, there is the trio of absurdly delicious caramel truffles rolled in Nutella powder or batons of baked-to-order pizza dough tossed in cinnamon sugar then served with a sticky cream cheese dipping sauce that evokes—in a reverent way—the canister of gooey glaze in pressure-loaded tubes of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. Oh, pounce, people, pounce...
Hot Date: A Day of Generosity in Beacon
November 5, 6-9 pm
Towne Crier Cafe, 379 Main St, Beacon
$30 in advance, $35 at the door
This benefit to raise money for clean drinking water in developing countries is supported by many of the Poo-Bahs in the local food and drink world. Not only is Drink More Good’s Jason Shuler involved in this event, but you’ll find prizes donated by Tuthilltown Spirits, Restaurant North, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Peekskill Brewery, The Hop, Birdsall House, etc. etc. Folks, this night is the hipster charity event of the season, and it’s all for a good cause, plus, there will be tons to eat and drink, and live music by Steve Chizmadia and Evan Watson.
Wood Fired Oysters at The Parlor
I am a huge fan of raw oysters—in fact, I would say (given the risk of eating them) that raw oysters are my vice. They’re such an addiction in their raw state that, whenever I come across them cooked or fried, I emit a little sigh of disappointment. Until now. At The Parlor, the six briny bivalves on the menu have been slightly tightened in its wood oven, coddled like a silky soft egg in delightfully porky goo. They are almost unbelievably delicious.