Nancy Silverton, holding a glass of Aglianico del Vulture in one hand and IPhone 6 in the other, stood in a dark corner of the owner's parking lot of Complesso Mozza. Two young chefs - Ryan Vito DeNicola and Tiffany Fox - waited for her to say something they could understand, her voice a barely audible slur, like Brando toward the end. But, she said nothing they could grasp. She had been silent during much of the evening, except now where she seemed even more distant speaking than not, staring out through the semidarkness into the alley where idled her midnight blue Porsche from which Coltane and Tyner joyously engulfed "But Not For Me" The young chefs knew - as did some of Silverton's employees who stood nearby - that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon her when she was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood as rare as a full moonset during her nine-year reign at Mozza.
Silverton had been working on a book she could not wait to finish; she was tired of all the publicity attached to her dating a gang reporter; she was weary of traveling - having hours earlier returned from West Carolina - and stressing on an upcoming trip - a day in D.C and three in N. Y. C. - before heading to somewhere in the Mid East for a pop up; she was tried of being recognized by strangers who saw her on the PBS show "I'll Have What Phil's Having", and was even concerned that very show could overrun her small Umbrian summer getaway with tourists;, she was tired of getting people reservations;, she so worn out that her body was - so very uncharacteristically - reacting with ache. Silverton was ill. She was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Silverton it can plunge her into a state of disbelief, like the state of the confusion a Bengal tiger must have when confined to a cage. Nancy Silverton had a cold.
Silverton with a cold is Picasso without paint, LaFerrari without fuel, Seabiscuit without a racetrack-- only worse. For the common cold robs Silverton of that uninsurable jewel, her voice, cutting into the core of her confidence, and it affects not only her own psyche but also seems to cause a kind of psychosomatic nasal drip within dozens of people who work for her, drink with her, worship her, depend on her for their own welfare and stability.
Silverton with a cold is cause for concern. Mere mortals get colds and are left to fend for themselves to get through the annoyance. Silverton gets visitors like she has just had open heart surgery. Friends and family - bordering on somber -arrive at her house, some - like writer Margy Rochlin - so shaken they retreat to the back yard to escape the strange sight of a docile Silverton. Her daughter Vanessa Silverton-Peel arrives and glares at me with a "What have you done to my mother?" look. They don't stay long.
For me, however, Silverton with a cold is a wonderful thing. She stays home this past weekend. I get food from Chi Spacca on Friday night ( shoulder lamb shouler chops with Jimmy Nardello peppers and broccolini) and from Pizzeria Mozza on Saturday night ( the new Jimmy Nardello pizza, meatballs and a Trecolre salad) and we dine at home. And, if anyone needed any proof she was actually sick, I can attest that she passes on the red wine and goes for a diet Dr. Pepper.
We even watched television together. . I had been hooked on Veena Sud's "the Killing" and was 17 episodes in when Nancy got sick. I weakly offer to start from the beginning, but she says no, If you have ever had to explain a complicated story that is a season and a half in to someone, you will know what i went through. Nancy asked so many question that I stopped the show so much that one 42 minute episode took one hour and 15 minutes. Still, I'd like to tell Veena Sud one day that Sunday night. (possible Spoiler ) as we were going to bed, Nancy said "Looks like Gwen did it."
So. Nancy Silverton has a cold. When she coughs, - and she coughed so much at a visit to Urgent Care ( near Bogie's Liquors) that her Armenian Greek doctor said her throat looked "like a cobblestone street" - it pains me, too. I lie awake with her.
I hope Nancy Silverton gets over this cold. But, not too quickly .
This story is a straight out robbery of a classic piece of journalism by Gay Talese that ran in Esquire.
Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" ran in April 1966 and became one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published, a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism -- a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction.