Legendary chef Mark Ladner is saying good bye to the Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich Italian restaurant empire Thursday night. It’s his final service in the kitchen at fine-dining jewel, Del Posto in far-west Chelsea— after nearly 20 years of cooking for their restaurants around the city.
He’s not leaving the industry entirely, instead departing to focus on his fast-casual restaurant Pasta Flyer. Yet today, as he steps down from his position, chef and restaurateur, Mario Carbone of Major Food Group wanted to take a moment to honor Ladner for the influence he has had on the city’s thriving Italian food scene. Here are his words:
His name may not be familiar everyone. But, I promise, if you’ve been to a new Italian restaurant in New York City, or even around America in the past 15 years, you’ve seen his work and you’ve eaten his food.
Mark Ladner — the chef who opened Lupa Osteria Romana, and more recently Del Posto — has been impacting the way we eat Italian food in the United States for nearly two decades: First with refined casualness then years later with decadent grace. His studied effortlessness can only be described by the great word, sprezzatura.
Italian food, by nature, is not a chef-driven cuisine. It is a cuisine of the Matriarch. It’s born of mothers, grandmothers, and in humble home kitchens. It was never meant to be a platform for culinary ego or a litmus test of kitchen creativity. And no one understands this better than Mark.
Although he changed the game when he opened Lupa — creating a restaurant that helped put salumi on every restaurant menu, and made a simple dish like cacio e pepe a work of art — he shunned the modern day culinary spotlight. Instead, he hid behind the ingredients, regions and stories of Italy. He made those components the stars of his show, and I will be forever grateful to him for allowing me to be his student. I met Mark when I was 18 years old as an intern, when he was a sous chef at Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant Babbo in 1998. Over time I would work under him in three more restaurants spanning the better portion of a decade.
Tonight he leaves his position as executive chef of Del Posto, New York’s first and only four-star Italian restaurant, in a continued pursuit of reimagining what this cuisine can be by opening a quick-serve pasta concept called Pasta Flyer. And, although this is far from a retirement, I want to take this as an opportunity to say thank you, not only for myself, but also for the multitude of others who appreciate him.
Escarole says thank you; its a thing now. You’ve heard of bucatini because of him. You’re running cacio e pepe as a special tonight? Say thank you. You just received a wedding present of Richard Ginori china? Guess who. And maybe you were even adventurous enough to find yourself eating a fried artichoke in the Jewish quarter of Rome. Thats probably Mark, too.
If plates of food could be immortalized as works of art to be bought and sold like sculptures, than an original salumi board of house-cured meats from Lupa ‘99 should sell for enough to fund a lifetime of your dreams. Thank you for being not only being my mentor but for inspiring an entire generation of young Italian chefs, whether they knew it or not.
— Mario Carbone, chef and partner at Major Food Group