Delancey is comfortable. It's inviting and easy and laid-back and honest. Delancey is a story you hear from a friend.
Of course, author Molly Wizenberg isn't my friend. I've never met her, I don't know how her voice sounds and I probably wouldn't recognize her face. But despite all that, Wizenberg charmed me in this memoir. She made me feel like she was telling the story of how her husband, Brandon, set out to open Seattle's best pizza restaurant — and how she, against the odds, joined him for the ride — to people who know them. I just happened to be in the room.
This book is fairly self-effacing, as memoirs go. Wizenberg admits her restaurant-related reluctances and even acknowledges that even as she encouraged Brandon to persevere, she didn't quite believe she would.
Delancey is sort of a high-level look at what can happen if you don't try to change your partner or, at the very least, if you don't try to sway that person even when his or her plans seem crazy or likely to wipe our your savings and hopes for future financial success. I guess I'm that person in my relationship — the one whose career is anything but stable, the one with too many ideas, the one who often abandons those ideas. By hearing about another couple with a similar dichotomy, I think I've started to appreciate the way my husband trusts me to pursue my best ideas, while encouraging me, gently, to seek something practical within them. It's important for an idea person to be paired with someone grounded in reality.
Between chapters, Wizenberg shares a number of mostly simple but enticing recipes. They're the types of food she and Brandon ate while opening the restaurant, mostly non-pizza foods that kept them going in those crazy days. Most all of them sound delicious.
I'd be silly to ignore that Delancey is, in addition to a charming story of love and shared journeys, a way to market the real Delancey, the restaurant Wizenberg and her husband opened in Seattle in 2009. It was so effective in that regard, that I requested my good friend and contributor Katie — also my favorite Seattleite — to check it out on my behalf. Her review: "Best pizza in Seattle."
Delancey got me thinking about the foods I turn to when stressed or tired, the foods I crave when flavor trumps presentation and Instagramability (did I just invent a word?). Spaghetti and meatballs isn't a dish I grew up on, but it is a combination I've come to embrace in recent months for its ease-to-satisfaction ratio. Give me an hour and I can whip up an amazing batch of this stuff. I'll toss it in a bowl without a care for whether the sauce splatters. And whoever's around will devour it because, really, who doesn't want spaghetti and meatballs after a long day?
HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS
For the meatballs
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 large egg
- 1 medium onion, grated
- leaves from 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the sauce
- 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. spaghetti
In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, onion, parsley, egg, salt and pepper. Mix lightly with hands until combined. This can be done up to one day in advance.
Heat extra virgin olive oil in large skillet (I used my trusty cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Form meatballs and place in skillet so they all fit but aren't touching. Oil should sizzle. Cook for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom.
Once meatballs are lightly browned, scatter onions around them, filling gaps between them. Top onion with chopped garlic.
When onions and garlic have softened, pour tomatoes into skillet and gently stir to loosen meatballs from the surface of the skillet. Add bay leaves, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if using. Adjust heat so the sauce bubbles lightly, then cover and cook about 8 minutes, until the meat cooks through. Remove the lid and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.
While sauce cooks, cook spaghetti according to package directions in another pot. Once cooked, strain pasta and add to a large serving bowl.
Remove bay leaves from sauce, then spoon sauce and meatballs over pasta. Don't worry if the sauce splashes; just call your presentation "freeform." To serve, divide amongst bowls and top with grated cheese. I used Parmigiano Reggiano.