Rocco DiSpirito has been a major ingredient in the American food scene since the 1990s. He owned a three-star restaurant, was a reality star on television and has written over a dozen cookbooks, ranging in themes from Italian to American to “Keto Comfort.”
These days, he runs a custom food delivery service, Made by Rocco, has a product line of raw and organic smoothies, protein powders and food snacks, and still appears on TV regularly. Originally from Jamaica, Queens, Mr. DiSpirito is now a longtime resident of TriBeCa, where he lives with his family, two dogs and two cats.
First attempt For some reason, somewhere between 5 and 6, my brain just wants me to get up. And I do not sleep easily, so it’s usually a short night. So I get up just to finish with this. I’ll take a protein shake and check emails for a while, deal with some of the things that got me started in the first place, and then, after about 90 minutes, I go back to sleep.
Take two Between 8 and 9, I’m officially awake, and the second round of daily life begins with pets. I take the dogs for a long walk. One of the reasons I live in this part of TriBeCa is because there is a dog park nearby. While I walk with the dogs I start to think about the main fun activity of the day. It involves food, unsurprisingly.
Admin I have to sneak some work at different intervals every day because Made by Rocco is actually 24/7. I check on my clients and make sure their needs are met and plan the menus for the coming week. I usually have about 15 customers at a time, and I hope to be in touch with half of them in the morning. Then I travel, almost always, to Balthazar.
The ceremony I try to get to Balthazar around noon. It is basically kept standing with a rotating group of friends. Brunch / lunch / dinner can last up to three hours. This is a big deal for me because it’s usually the only time I allow myself to eat a very long meal and company of friends. It’s like my church. I’ve been a fan of Balthazar and owner Keith McNally since they opened in 1997. I used to come here almost every night after work, and we would sit in the same cell where I still sit every time I come here and stay for hours, just like I still do. I actually lost a credit card behind the banquet somewhere.
Dishes three meals I try to plan it so that this Sunday meal will serve as breakfast, lunch and an early dinner. They have an amazing basket of pastries, so I have pastries first with some coffee, and then in about an hour, I order the seafood tower. Always. Holding a seafood tower in Balthazar is one of my favorite things to do all over the world. This was what I dreamed of more than anything else in the dog days of the plague. About an hour after the seafood tower, maybe I have steak chips or maybe a duck or trout. Something very typical French. This is a magical place for classic French food and a brasserie atmosphere that you will not find much anymore.
To walk, to visit I like to walk, especially after a long meal. Where I go depends on my mood, but most Sundays I will drive to the Lower East Side to a small gallery called Chinatown Soup to find my friends Tim Huss, a brilliant graphic designer who has worked on many of my books. I love the small galleries of the Lower East Side and especially of Tim, as it represents what New York was built for, a place where someone with $ 50 can start something and be underground, and that’s Chinatown soup. Tim has really cool community-based shows. He makes amazing tea and has fine cigars, so we will smoke cigars, drink tea, check out the art and just hang out.
brainstorm I’m involved with the Downtown Alliance, working with a small team there on a series, Dine Around Downtown Cooking at Home Edition. We started it early in the epidemic to draw attention to chefs who have reopened or struggled to reopen, or turned into trips and deliveries, and help raise awareness for them and their charities. Every three weeks or so we do a presentation on zooming in with a restaurant from the area. I’m the host and part of the planning, so every Sunday the staff and I connect to the discussion in the next presentation.
Talk about it I check in with other clients, those I have not been in touch with before. Then, I’ll hop on the phone with my therapist. I’m in therapy, I believe, from second grade. They did not call it that, and I did not understand what it was until I was in college, but it was consistent in my life. Early in my career I worked for a restaurant owner who truly believed in consistent care, as a way to make management stronger and better and more empathetic. So it got reinforced many times in my life that it was a good idea.
Family dinner Around 7 there is more food. I am cooking. My extended family comes, sometimes my neighbors too. There is always pasta on Sunday evenings. Other things too, but the pasta is the regular. I’m going to make carbonara or meat ragout, something like that. When I work on a cookbook, I often get inspired by everything I make on Sunday, so the menu may be geared to my needs. My family and friends do not know they are involved in checking recipes, but I think they do not care. I am currently working on “Rocco at Home”, my next cookbook, so the menu is definitely based on convenience and well received.
Sleep assistance I was a contestant or referee in Guy Fairy’s Champions Tournament “for all three seasons. The judging, as I have done for the past two seasons, is all really blind and supervised. I mean, it’s like witness protection. I have no idea whose food I am tasting or even the results of the competition until the season premiere. Just like everyone else, I have to watch to find out, so now I’m watching season 3. I hate watching myself on TV. I’m a shy person. introvert. But I have to watch every episode to see how it turned out and to know how to get better at my job as a judge. The only time I can do that is the last thing on a Sunday night. It’s so excruciating to see myself on TV that it really helps me fall asleep.
Sunday readers can follow Rocco DiSpirito on Twitter or Instagram @roccodispirito.