In the last decade, chef Scott Conant has become widely known for his appearances on Top Chef, Chopped and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. However, he first made a name for himself as the chef at some of New York's best Italian restaurants. With his new restaurant, Fusco, the first independent New York restaurant he's opened in a decade, he's looking back for a new source of inspiration, his grandmother (whose maiden name was Fusco). Conant explained the homage when he stopped by our test kitchen to make his Lobster Gnudi.
Her cooking was one of Conant's first influences.
"She had a big wooden board in the house that she would use to make make cavatelli or orecchiette," he says. "I always remember those pastas, especially her cavatelli with broccoli rabe. It wasn’t necessarily the flavor profiles, but it was really the spirit of the food that has always resonated strongly with me."
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Her personality is on full display.
Channeling his grandmother's air of hospitality is one of Conant's primary goals with Fusco. "When I think about old world hospitality, I always think about my grandmother and how she engaged people when they entered her home," he explains. "She always seemed to be prepared and I think there's something to be said about that virtual hug or level of warmth. It's that same type of hospitality that I want to provide at the restaurant."
Fusco's interior pays homage to Conant's grandmother's homeland.
"This is the first independent restaurant that I’ve opened in almost 10 years and it’s really exciting," he explains. "I walk into Fusco sometimes and try to get into the headspace of what customers will experience right when they enter for the first time. When you open the door, there’s a quaintness that I think you’d find in a back street bistro in Paris or a little trattoria in Italy. There’s definitely a European feel to it, but it’s very well appointed."
The music selection, however, is all his own.
"As elegant as it is, it’s not at all stuffy or pretentious," he says. "The music, for instance, is much more what I would listen to rather than what my grandmother did. We're going to play everything, from Waylon Jennings to Led Zeppelin to Louis Prima and also a little Jay Z too."