Ryan Hardy is the chef and owner of Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones, and Legacy Records. The pizza maker, pasta expert, hip-hop nerd, and self-professed “numbers guy” teamed up with Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli for Resy’s third annual Franks’ Backyard Chef Series. In anticipation of the cookout feast, the three chefs got together to eat, drink, and share stories from the kitchen. Tag along.
Where to find Chef Ryan Hardy After Hours:
- For vegan kaiseki: Kajitsu
- For a slice: Prince Street Pizza
- For a proper Campari: Via Carota and Bar Pisellino
- For duck carnitas: Cosme
- For a burger followed by a steak: 4 Charles Prime Rib
- For real Korean: Cho Dang Gol
- For raw fish: 15 East or Shuko
- For heat and cold beer: Ugly Baby
First stop: Yakitori Tora, a favorite haunt of Frank Castronovo for sake and grilled meat skewers. The three chefs have convened at the Japanese eatery, each arriving by motorcycle—or in Hardy’s case, Vespa—their preferred method to get around town. Although Pasquale Jones is only a block away, it’s Hardy’s first time dining at Yakitori Tora.
Castronovo discovered it serendipitously, walking in Nolita one night. “We have a bunch of newbies tonight. It’s great, man,” he says.
Over Asahi on draft, umeboshi-cucumber salad, and homemade pickled lotus, the conversation turns to pizza. With The Franks to soon open their slice joint in Carroll Gardens, Hardy shares his own technique. “We try and keep it just above Naples; we cook it a little longer and at a slightly lower temperature than they do there, so you can actually pick it up and fold it,” he says of his pies at Pasquale Jones. “It’s so legit, dude,” remarks Frank Falcinelli. There are talks of other pizza joints they like to frequent, with mentions of Prince Street Pizza and Paulie Gee’s, Upside Pizza and Ops.
And of Franny’s, the now-closed Park Slope restaurant best-known for its clam pie. Years ago, Hardy would come to New York from Colorado, where he was cooking at the Little Nell, to eat there. “It was my favorite restaurant in the country,” he says. “I would go nuts whenever I ate it.” It inspired him to put a clam pie on the menu at Pasquale Jones, even though his business partner Robert Bohr told him he was crazy to invite comparisons. “We probably did 40 iterations of it, to get it right,” he says.
A yakitori feast lands on the carved wooden table: chicken (juicy thighs sandwiched between charred scallions, lobes of breast wrapped in skin, chewy gizzards, and extra-crispy wings); Berkshire pork (butt and ribs, marinated with shio-koji); short rib dipped in Oroshi ponzu sauce; and vegetables. “Southern okra,” Hardy, observes, “it’s like my childhood, on a skewer.” “It’s the poor man’s shishito pepper!” Facinelli says, as he pops a blistered specimen into his mouth, anticipating potential heat. “Every 19 of them is hot,” he jokes. Hardy is from Kentucky, while The Franks were born and bred in Queens.
They’re all fans of Japanese fare—one of Hardy’s favorite places to eat is Kajitsu, a vegetarian kaiseki restaurant in Murray Hill—and yet their hearts are in Italy. Hardy speaks fondly of his wedding in Rome, which was catered by the legendary restaurant Roscioli. It’s known for endless varieties of fresh mozzarella, and, as Facinelli recalls, a dish called “the jamón versus the prosciutto.”
The Franks acknowledge the difficulty and precision of the pasta Hardy is gearing up to serve to 95 guests in their backyard the following night: Pasta alla Nerano, comprised of “scoopable” rigatoni, hyper-seasonal squash blossoms, basil, Parmigiano, and hot pepper. “We made fresh pasta for the last event, but we’re on the home team so we have the ability to do it,” Castronovo says, impressed by Hardy’s confidence.
“I still got room for pizza,” Facinelli sings. Hardy nods, laughing, and Castronovo agrees: “Now you got it in my head.”
It’s on to Pasquale Jones, where Zalto wine glasses are filled with white Burgundy and slices of charred pea shoot pie are doled out. It’s the restaurant’s wine program, Hardy shares with The Franks, that offsets the expense and allows him to run a successful pizza operation—the price tag on a pie can only be so much. “There it is!” Hardy exclaims as a clam pie arrives. He grabs a slice and brings it to his lips, pausing, to address his staff: “It’s funny you brought silverware.” Facinelli takes a bite, declaring, “Yeah, I’m going to need one more.”
Hardy disappears to put in another order. Ten minutes go by before anyone realizes he’s in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up, making pies. “We just got hit with 30 pizza orders!” he says, finally returning to the table with another steaming clam pie in hand.
It’s 10 pm and a few blocks uptown, The Franks’ foie gras hot dogs are being passed around the room at Estela. Chef Ignacio Mattos has closed his Houston Street mainstay for the rest of the night, inviting chefs and industry players to celebrate another great year of casual dining, complete with mussels escabeche on toast and endive salad, of course. Inside, Barbuto’s Jonathan Waxman holds down a booth. Natasha Pickowicz, Mattos’ executive pastry chef, made a cake covered in torn pink peonies. Hardy and The Franks snake their way through the room, hugging and kissing the cheeks of friends, glasses of bubbly in hand. Finally, another round of cheers for another night, as chefs in New York—After Hours.