The sidewalk in front of New York’s timeless spot, Da Silvano, may be one of the most important places to see and be seen. Frequented by movers and shakers such as Anna Wintour, Alec Baldwin, Padma Lakshmi and even Rihanna, Da Silvano is no doubt an iconic space making history day by day. The man that’s always been right at it’s helm is Silvano Marchetto, the delightfully (sometimes controversial) restaurateur who still can be found at his restaurant each and every night. Making the rounds while charmingly speaking a mix of American and Italian, Marchetto has yet to lose his touch after thirty-seven years in the business. If there ever was an icon in the New York restaurant world, Silvano Marchetto would be it. We sat down with the restaurateur for cappuccinos and a chat…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
My ideal food day would be different, depending on if I’m working or not…
I don’t really ever eat breakfast. I’ll have fresh juice if I’m working. If I’m on vacation, I’ll make myself scrambled egg-whites with shaved white truffles, but that will be more like a brunch or early lunch than breakfast. Breakfast is very American.
For lunch, I like to eat light because I still have to work the lunch and dinner service. I usually like to eat a salad – like Puntarelle with Anchovy Dressing, or Boston Lettuce with Gorgonzola, or a half-pasta after the lunch service. If I need to take a break, I’ll take a walk over to Saigon Shack on MacDougal Street. I love their special Brisket Bánh Mi (I like it extra spicy). On vacation for lunch, I would probably eat a nice roasted whole fish or fresh langoustines.
If I’m working I usually eat a late dinner and will try to eat light. I’ll eat whatever is freshest at the restaurant from the seafood specials – like Yellow Gurnard or maybe Scorfano. If I’m not at the restaurant, I love having steak for dinner. I like eating at Sparks or Churrascaria on my day off; they have great steaks and grilled meats.
At work I try to eat fruit or sorbet for dessert. We have many homemade sorbets like Fennel, Blood Orange, and Lemon-Rosemary. Yogurt ice cream with a splash of aged balsamic vinegar and some berries makes a great dessert. Or sometimes I like to treat myself to a good Baba au Rhum.
What would you say you have done for Italian cuisine since you opened in 1975?
I would say that I broke the ice for Italian food. I kept trying new things. I started serving simple Tuscan-style food that I grew up with and that I liked to make. Since I opened many other Italian restaurants have opened in New York, but I was the first to start serving a kind of Italian food that was not yet served in restaurants. Many people have copied me and followed in my footsteps. Some people have been successful, and some people have not.
I kept making new items; I started playing around with desserts too – like my Panna Cotta, which is very popular. I didn’t do what other Italian restaurants had. I never served Spaghetti with Meatballs, Chicken Scarpariello, Chicken Marsala…I wanted my restaurant to be different. I also made a point of changing the wines that I served…Every restaurant had the same kind of Italian wines – Soave, Bolla, etc. I liked trying new wines and adding them to the list – like Mastroberardino from Naples, which is an excellent wine. I like trying new things.
Aesthetically, what would you say you did differently?
I left it country style – like a Tuscan trattoria with brick walls and stucco. It is simple, comfortable, and not the fanciest place in town. I like the color yellow – in Italy many places are yellow. I didn’t try to make a fancy place like some of the places I had worked in France, Switzerland and Italy (before coming to New York), or some of the more fancy restaurants uptown. I wanted to keep it simple and make the food special.