Culinary superstar Donatella Arpaia has had quite the busy 2017 so far! She has opened up a fantastic new restaurant right inside Grand Central called Prova Pizzabar, which we gave a rave review to back in March, as well as being a television mainstay on the Food Network and so much more! One holiday that she loves to celebrate, like so many other New Yorkers, is the 4th of July, and Donatella was nice enough to give us some great tips that will hopefully help you out if you are the grand host or hostess of your own event!
Here is what Donatella Arpaia has to say about all of this, as well as breaking through the barriers of the culinary industry and becoming one of the biggest female chefs this world has seen in years.
What do you generally do for the 4th of July?
We have this great lake house in Connecticut, and every year we have had a 4th of July party and it keeps on getting bigger each time. It started with 20 people and a firecracker, and now it’s a 30-minute firework show and a 150 fifty people, so it has become the big event at our house each year.
What is your favorite kind of food to make for the celebration?
I think there is something to be said about this whole “give the people want they want” mentality for the 4th of July, in terms of the expectation of barbecue and classic comfort American food. So, I am going to be smoking ribs and chicken and barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers. I also have a wood stone pizza oven at my lake house, so I’ll be doing an assortment of pizzas with that as well. Alcohol can get very expensive, so I love to make really good white and red sangrias while having a limited bar so things can become organized. Those are very popular.
I also like to do some lighter fare, lots of grilled vegetables and a type of fish as well. Shrimp and crab cakes are some good options, as well as oysters and homemade potato chips. Just elevating the barbecue in terms of getting great products while giving people what they want.
What is the best tip you would give to the host or hostess of a party to not get too frazzled?
That is my goal every year actually, is to not get too stressed about the party. I think that it is really good to set parameters and to be as organized as possible. I have 150 people and its huge, and some of the people are coming from New York City so I can’t start the party too late so this year I am starting it at 4PM. It gets dark later, so as soon as it gets dark we will do the fireworks, but in between there is constant feeding and drinking, so you have to be as organized as possible.
Before the party starts, I’m organizing and cleaning out my refrigerator and pantry, getting all the disposables and labeling everything. I really want to make it like it is in a restaurant where everything is easy to follow. Right down to putting a lot of disposable trash cans out, signs for the bathroom, you want your guests to know what their expectations are. This includes an arrival and departure time, so people don’t stay forever! It’s these little nuggets you learn- firm but very organized, so when the party comes and you have everything down then you can try to enjoy yourself.
On a complete side note, the culinary world is still very male dominant, yet you have been able to breakthrough that barrier pretty incredibly. How have you been able to overcome the sexism that is deep rooted in the culinary industry?
That’s the million-dollar question. I had an all-male staff when I owned my first restaurant at 27. At the time, there wasn’t even female servers in fine dining. So much has changed. I think that in the lifestyle of restaurateurs, there is this expectation that you work constantly all the time, especially for women who want to become mothers, and it is really truly hard. It’s very misogynist. I have had hate over the years from all directions. There can be a lot of people that don’t know how to respond to a strong female. I think that I have very tough skin which I get from my Neapolitan father. I like to encourage females and I like to say, “there’s no crying in baseball”, and that you can’t personalize it and toughen up while focusing on honing in on your craft.
Certain reviewers would say things about my physical appearance, which they would never do about a man. Things like “Oh, she’s dressing too nice”, or “She’s not dressed nice enough”. A lot of commentary was on my looks, which is not something you would normally do. For anyone out there, just continue to be good at what you do, master the craft, and focus on what makes you great and don’t listen to the naysayers.
For more information on Donatella Arpaia, check out her official site.