A Sweaty, Saw-Dust-Stuck Chat with Andy Nusser About Tarry Lodge

We showed up to the construction site that will be Tarry Lodge—opening in either August or September—on the hottest day of the year thus far. And FYI, air conditioning is not installed yet, so we sweltered as we poked around the unfinished, multi level space waiting for Joe Bastianich to show up for photography. It crossed our minds that Joe might be late, having just won (on the previous night) the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year for his work at Babbo.

We thought to ourselves, ‘Now… if we won that award, and we drank the kind of wine that Joe drinks, and we kept the company that Joe keeps, we might be a little bleary at 11 AM on the following morning.’ Yet promptly in stepped Joe (in a fab pair of ankle boots), clear eyed and dapper, in a truly lethal slim black suit that had us all resentfully muttering that Warren Zevon line, “Huh—I’d like to meet his tailor.” Damn him, he also managed to look unsweaty.

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However, our damp wait was not unrewarded. We took the time to catch up with Hastings resident Andy Nusser, executive Chef at Tarry Lodge and chef/partner/instigator of Casa Mono and Bar Jamon (whom foodies might also recognize from his part in Bill Buford’s bestselling book, Heat.) Nusser’s also just a general sweetheart. We chatted about the menu, and we have a couple of previews for our readers.

The menu, as we mentioned before, is themed on a Roman-style pizzeria/trattoria. Nusser will be cooking over wood (almond wood, to be precise) in a brick oven. Wood – as any pizza lover must acknowledge—is not as hot as coal, but it does lend pizza a lovely smoky flavor. Manhattan pizzaiolo of note, Anthony Mangieri of Una Pizza Napolitana, cooks with wood (because there’s a prohibition against installing new coal ovens, something about pollution, of all things.) Anyway, Nusser plans to get the Tarry Lodge woodburning oven up to seriously high temps, so that the perfect pizza crust can be achieved within three or four minutes. Fast cooking, BTW, is essential for pizza purists—the crust dries out with long baking. Nusser’s mozzarella will be imported from Campania, and he’ll be sourcing all sorts of other wonderful cheeses and ingredients from all over Italy. We can’t wait.

The Tarry Lodge menu will feature ten antipasti, ten pizzas, ten primi, ten secondi and eight desserts. Here are sample dishes from each course:

Antipasti

Asparagus Milanese

Primi

Fusilli ala Crazy Bastard
Fusilli, garlic, roasted cherry tomatoes, beet greens, goat cheese and walnuts.

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Pizza

Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata and Opal Basil

Secondi

Grilled Guinea Hen with Treviso and Oranges

Desserts

The Tarry Lodge Sundae (Well…Nusser’s not giving anything away with this listing, I’m afraid.)

And on the subject of Heat, which we just re-read in a blur to get all the people straight, Nusser managed to be reasonably philosophical. The book deals with, in part, his struggles to open Casa Mono as Batali and Bastianich passed him over to open Otto and Del Posto. (Casa Mono—a Bastianich/Batali/Nusser restaurant—finally opened, to general, drop-to-the-knees acclaim.) Apparently, after Bill Buford showed him a proof, Mario Batali called Nusser to say, “Dude! I just read Buford’s book, and you look like a d***!” Nusser had read the book, so he replied, “I read it, and there is a d*** in it — but I don’t think it’s me.” Re-read Heat. There is certainly a d*** in the book.

Andy Nusser and Joe Bastianich at Tarry Lodge, slated to open in late summer.

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