Round Two With Charlie Bird's Ryan Hardy: "I'm Very Proud to Lead a Team, Feed Families, and See My Name on the Paycheck"
In part one of my interview with Charlie Bird's Ryan Hardy, he talked about service, peanut butter and jelly, and the moment everything clicked for him. Today, he's back with his favorite ingredient, his best tip for an amateur cook, and the most memorable meal he's ever eaten.
Favorite item in your pantry or walk-in?
We make neonata di pesce, which is cured fish with garlic, wine, salt, Calabrian chilies, and a little lemon. It's kind of chunky, salty, and spicy; it's almost like Italian peanut butter--you could eat it on a spoon. We use it for so much.
At what New York restaurant do you celebrate a special night out?
I'm a big fan of Eleven Madison and Nomad. I'm a fan of Daniel [Humm] and Will [Guidara], and I enjoy the whole staff. Neta; those guys have a lot of fun. They approach Japanese food the way we approach our food--they just cook for you, and it will be delicious, and you will really enjoy it. Marea: It's beautiful. I love to get to Brooklyn for either a special night out on just a night off--I like to wander around and get to know a neighborhood. It has a different feel.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
Pizza. And sweets. I could eat a bag of Oreo cookies without thinking. My fiancée is like, "You should eat the organic ones." I would, but they're not as good.
What's your favorite meal to cook at home?
Pasta. For sure. With whatever is in the markets. It's very Zen for me. It doesn't take long to make fresh pasta from scratch from start to finish. It takes about 20 minutes to have the noodles rolled and open a bottle of wine. Foreplay of food is important, and we miss that sometimes. It's why Chinese takeout can't really replace home-cooked food.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever eaten?
I ate at this little crudo bar in Napoli that we stumbled into, and it was an extraordinary experience. There were eight bar stools. They would take the fish apart in front of you, and everything was served in a box, Japanese-style. We ate red prawns from the gulf of Napoli. It was Easter weekend and a warm spring day, and it was one of those everything's-right-in-the-world kind of moments.
What do you wish you could put on your menu, regardless of how well it would sell?
I just put it on the menu, I don't have to wish. I don't have a problem with things selling or not, generally speaking. It's like that old bumper sticker: "If there's something I wish I was doing, I'd damn well be doing it." That's why we opened a restaurant; we curate.
On the next page, Hardy talks about the time he almost killed someone in his kitchen.