The Tiny Hot Dogs author dishes on celebrity riders, De Niro’s Montauk haunts and if there is ever an occasion that can not be improved by the presence of the titular item in question.
Photos by Adrien BroomW
e like food as much as the next magazine or website, more so when it is bite-sized. So when we had to the opportunity to hang out with the utmost authority in bite-sized bites, we chomped at the chance. After a thorough and hungry reading of her upcoming memoir, Tiny Hot Dogs, we were ready to grill Mary Giuliani, caterer to the stars and possibly Rachael Ray’s idol, who generously provided us a bit of her time.
The book is a simmering pot of fond childhood memories, star-studded encounters, and recipes so good you’ll find yourself staining the pages with olive oil. Throw in the fact that her summers were spent in Montauk (albeit not eating Ditch Witch) and you have the makings of our new best friend. We’ll let Mary take it from here.
Jordon Kaplan: I feel like I have to ask this and forgive me if I missed it, those were Kosher pigs in a blanket at the 178 some odd bar/bat mitzvahs, correct?
Mary Giuliani: I assume they were. I was 13 and I mostly ate them in temples.
You provided a pretty amazing sounding chicken sausage spin on the pig in a blanket, do you have any other gems that might class the place up? Comfort food spins, more to the point.
MG: My favorite thing to do it take something simple and make it special, that is what my catering company is truly known for. For grilled cheese: one of our most popular is fontina drizzled with black truffle honey, for tacos: we do beet tacos with veggies and eggplant compote, for pizza: cauliflower pizza with wild mushrooms. Lasagna: we make bite-sized lasagna cupcakes. Mac & Cheese: We make mini mac and cheese doughnuts…they’re SO good!
The Montauk essay, “Free HBO,” for your grandmother Lucille, gives off a heavy Gatsby vibe, very romantic. Did you see this comparison in retrospect? Especially in Lucille’s search for love, do you think there was a grand love she was throwing parties for?
“She became known as an eccentric who lived in a tower and threw legendary parties. In short, she was a local celebrity and beloved by many. She also became known as a hard, brash businesswoman…”
-from “Tiny Hot Dogs”
MG: In my opinion, Lucille was driven by love; love of Montauk, love of her family, love of business, love of her guests. I think she lived the American Dream and because she was a woman who did it at a time when most women did not, with success came loneliness and I think her parties were her way of searching for love.
Lucille was driven by love; love of Montauk, love of her family, love of business, love of her guests.
For me, Lucille’s life has served as both incredible inspiration and a cautionary tale. She achieved success beyond her wildest dreams yet with that came pain. In the essay, I describe her life struggle very similar to mine and any working mother and wife today, to find that balance-achieve yet nurture, succeed yet stay soft and warm.
I think she struggled back then with many things women do today, but back then, she was the minority.
Have you ever run into Bob Deniro down by Ditch? He probably has a private beach right? Are you still in touch?
MG: Not at Ditch but on Hither Hills Beach. No, but I look for him every time I walk that beach.
Can women have it all?
MG: Yes, but not everything at once. The struggle to find balance is both what Lucille suffered from in the ’60s and I suffer with now. I just think we’re better equipped and have more support now than women had back then.
I was a little bummed not to see the perfect Aglio e Olio recipe following the chapter that mentions your mother’s comfort pasta specialty, what makes it perfect? Extra garlic? Pepper flakes? Hungry minds need to know.
MG: Sauté the garlic in the olive first, then add the red pepper flakes.
I love the way you describe your relationship with your Italian heritage, “… we enjoy white leather in the summer.” How did that prepare you (or rather not prepare you) for when you first went to Italy? Were you surprised at the amount of fish you were asked to consume?
MG: I spent the first few months in Italy just getting used to pizza not coming in slices and no bacon, egg and cheeses for breakfast. I very quickly realized there was a difference between Italian and Italian Americans. We lived in the North, so big bowls of carbonara and Quattro formaggi were more common than fish…well at least for me.
I spent the first few months in Italy just getting used to pizza not coming in slices.
For our audience, please explain what a rider is and give your favorite example.
MG: A rider is a list of demands from a celebrity that the caterer must fulfill. As I say in the book, “To be able to demand a rider is to have made it in such a large way that you can insist on what type of flower in what color you NEVER want to be near, what type of fancy water (it’s always FIJI) must be available in abundance, and how many perfectly chilled martini glasses must be waiting in a freezer prior to your arrival.”
Nine times out of 10 times the celebrity doesn’t even eat or drink half of what is requested. I’ve seen many bags of Doritos sit unopened and dejected found not to be the object of Jay Z’s desire.
My catering company fills these types of requests all the time, which allows me to fantasize often about what I would put in my rider if someday, I “made it.” Pretty simple, crispy mozzarella sticks, (tiny hot dogs, of course) and Chuck Mangione to play “Feel So Good” anytime I need him to.
Favorite Montauk memory? Also, have you been to Ditch Witch?
MG: So many! Grilling hot dogs on Navy Beach with my Dad. Seeing Paul Simon at Deep Hollow Ranch. Getting a sweatshirt made at T-Square while waiting for our table to be ready at John’s Pizza. My grandmother Lucille’s smile when she allowed me to hang the “No Vacancy” sign on Old Montauk Highway and my wedding on Hither Hills Beach. I may go to Montauk jail for this [on visiting Ditch Witch]…but…sadly, no.
I’m Going to need to know if you have a favorite Gnocchi recipe that you would be willing to share?
MG: Yes, but it’s not mine. Missy Robbin’s at (of Lilia and Misi in Williamsburg) wins the gnocchi game hands down.
Pretty simple, crispy mozzarella sticks, (tiny hot dogs of course) and Chuck Mangione to play Feel So Good anytime I need him to.
I know you were once very hurt by a certain turtle in your life. Do you think you’ll ever be able to open your heart and home to another turtle? Should others take a chance by adopting a turtle?
MG: No, they live too long and some animals should remain wild, especially if their name is The Captain. And not unless you’re prepared for heartache. HAHA!
Is there ever a time when pigs in a blanket do not improve a social function?
MG: NOT ONE!