Culinary genre-bender Dale Talde is applying his “proudly inauthentic” approach to Italian food with his latest restaurant, Massoni, which opens for dinner service Nov. 21 in the new Arlo NoMad Hotel (11 E. 31st St.). “I’m never going to be stuck on just one cuisine, one style,” the “Top Chef” favorite promises.
Raised in Chicago by Filipino parents, Talde actually learned more about cooking from Mario Batali than in his family’s kitchen.
“I was around Filipino food all the time, but I never cooked it. I made eggs, folded dumplings with my mom when she needed help,” he says. “When I started cooking, it was watching ‘Molto Mario,’ it was watching Emeril Lagasse, it was watching the great chefs of the world.” The spaghetti he knew at home came out of a box with sweet sauce from jars, but watching Batali hand-roll gnocchi and make marinara sauce from scratch, “that to me was interesting.”
Talde describes Massoni as “Italian-ish,” with pizza and pasta as the “canvas” for international ideas like a lamb shawarma pie, a vegetarian take on meatball Parmesan with falafel, gnudi with sweet-and-sour mushroom sauce sprinkled with nori, biryani aracini and even a savory cannoli filled with beef tartare, crusted in pistachios and dusted with powdered smoked beef fat. “The ‘colors’ that we’re using might come from India, or a little bit Japanese, or have Chinese or Korean influence,” a nod to Massoni’s location in Koreatown, he says.
The pizza will be cooked in pans, using a focaccia-like dough that’s chewy in the middle and “crunchy, buttery on the bottom,” with toppings like ricotta with pistachio pesto, a clam pie and pepperoni with pickled peppers and honey.
The restaurant, which also serves a traditional American breakfast, isn’t Talde’s only project at the hotel. Bodega is a lobby-level coffee bar with grab-and-go sandwiches, pizza by the slice, soups and salads; on the second floor is an upstate cabin-style hideaway called BARlo with larger-format dining; and a rooftop bar, Heights, is coming in the spring.
“You’ll feel like the Empire State Building is falling on top of you,” Talde says of the 31st floor bar, which is named for, yes, its altitude but also what he calls “the great neighborhoods in New York City: Dyker Heights, Washington Heights, Brooklyn Heights.” All of the cocktails, by John Bush, will take their inspiration from them, served with a menu of easy-to-hold bar fare.
Talde is the second chef recently to take over a hotel’s entire food and beverage concept, after Andrew Carmellini brought backyard burgers,coastal Italianand Williamsburg’s highest rooftop bar to the William Vale Hotel. Talde describes partnering with the Arlo NoMad as an opportunity for “hospitality to the Nth degree. It’s not just enjoying a meal with us or having a drink at our bar — this person is actually sleeping here,” he says. “To impact someone’s experience in a 24-hour timeline is kind of cool; you get to see a snapshot of people’s lives.”