Why Ambra Is One Of NYC’s Hottest Reservations

by Eddie Roche

John DeLucie has done it again! The famed chef is back in the kitchen, at Ambra, and better than ever. Located in the heart of the West Village, the new spot offers artisanal high-end Italian food and has become a must-go destination for the fashion set. The man behind restaurants like The Lion and Empire Diner tells THE DAILY about his favorite things on the menu, his secret recipe for success, and what he thinks of The Bear.

How did Ambra come together?
I closed a few of my places and I was missing the kitchen. I was missing the restaurant experience of cooking for people. I had been doing it for so long. At one point I thought I was done with restaurants, but then I thought I really want to do Italian food. I got a call from a dear friend and he said I should speak to a friend of his about a restaurant he was opening in the West Village. The West Village is my jam. We met and talked, and it worked out immediately. That was August and we opened doors over Fashion Week in September. Now we feel like a neighborhood place. People are coming in two or three times a week, and we love that. We’re building a great business that will hopefully be here for a long time.


What’s the hook?
Pizza! We sourced this flour from Italy. We put a little whole wheat in there. We have a secret recipe that’s really nice. I make all the pastas by hand, or we use this excellent pasta from Naples. It’s the Italian food that I grew up with, that I love eating. I could live on pizza and pasta for the rest of my life. It’s my most favorite thing.  I’m thrilled to be here. This corner is amazing. The décor is cool. We have a great wine list with interesting selections that you don’t see everywhere. The cocktails are nice. The staff is awesome. The people who work here are so dedicated. That’s what makes the place!

I had the octopus carpaccio and veal Ambra. Delicious!
That’s a legit veal chop. We try to use the best ingredients we can find and not to do much messing around. We want to deliver the best product we can.

What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
I like crispy long-stem artichoke, the pastas are all pretty strong, and the veal. We also have a great all-natural seared New York strip steak served with parsley and watercress. It’s quite delicious.

How often are you at the restaurant?
I’m here all the time!

How has the food scene changed since you started?
It goes round and round. It’s always about value, and I don’t mean value in terms of price-sensitive; you’ve got to make sure that people get what they pay for and that comes with the music, the drinks, the wine selection, it all adds up to the total value of your experience. The experience, which is the culmination of all these things, is so important. It isn’t any one thing. You can’t survive on just great food, though great service is sometimes more important than food for a lot of people.

You also have an app called CookUnity. Tell us about that.
It’s a personalized meal-subscription service. The idea was to find the best chefs to produce meals that are ready to go and come to your house delivered fresh [not frozen]. The meals include expiration dates, heating instructions, and nutrition information. You can have four, six, or eight meals a week with side dishes and salads. It’s not expensive, and delivery is included in your subscription. It’s popular. Our New York kitchen is in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and we have kitchens in Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles. [Daily readers can use the code JOHNDELUC99 for a special deal. ]


The food world can be cruel. How do you deal with defeat when you have to close places?
S**t happens! You can fight it and be miserable or… I’ve had bad luck in my career, but success is the best revenge. Move forward, let it roll, and do the next thing. That’s all I can say.

How do you know when something is successful?
You can feel it in your bones. There are times when I had The Lion, which was über successful, but it was riddled with so many problems internally. It never felt that successful. It has a lot to do with people and who you surround yourself with. People are everything.

Final question: Do people ask you about The Bear all the time?
Yeah! They do ask about The Bear all the time! They ask, “Is it real? Is that how it happens?” The answer I give is “yes and no.” It’s a fabulous show, but it’s a show!

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