Chef Alain Allegretti may have been named Eater’s sexiest chef, but he’s much more than just a pretty face. The French ex-pat debuted on the New York dining scene more than 10 years ago as the co-executive chef at Le Cirque and followed that gig up with his own eponymous restaurant, Allegretti. It was there New Yorkers fell in love with his Provencal cooking, particularly his fish soup. Sadly, the restaurant closed and Alain Allegretti was a chef without a kitchen. He returns to the restaurant world at La Petite Maison, an offshoot of a famous restaurant in southern France.
Seeing as Allegretti grew up in Nice, he was the perfect candidate to oversee the kitchen at their first, stateside outpost. “I was essentially tailor-made for LPM,” Allegretti says. Let’s hope they can break the curse of the 54th street space, which formerly housed Atria and Aquavit. Allegretti’s favorite dishes on La Petite Maison’s menu are classic Provencal dishes, like zucchini beignets, Provencal fish soup, artichoke salad and stuffed baby vegetables.
First, congratulations on the recent opening of La Petite Maison. How do you feel it’s been received so far? Great! There is definitely a positive buzz going around about LPM.
How long were you out of the kitchen between Allegretti and La Petite Maison?
I was never really out of the kitchen. I was working on the LPM opening and future projects. And of course, I took some time to travel.
Allegretti was a great restaurant, so why did you leave it? Do you think it was meant for a different audience? Perhaps, it was better suited for the Upper East Side? How long after you left did it close?
I am so glad you recognize that Allegretti was a great restaurant. I was happy about the restaurant but Allegretti wasn’t bringing me the joy I expected. We can always look at many reasons, but at the end of the day, the future is ahead of me & I have to look ahead.
How did the opportunity to head up the kitchen at La Petite Maison come about?
I am friendly with the owner of LPM and was always planning on taking this project on, regardless of Allegretti’s closing.
You’re originally from Nice, so was it exciting to return to your native cooking?
My cooking style has always been inspired by the South of France with some Italian influences. I was essentially tailor made for LPM.
Were you worried about moving into the former Grayz/Atria space where no one seemed to be having much luck?
I am always a positive person. The way I saw it, Aquavit was a success, and so we will have success at LPM.
What’s it like to be back in the kitchen? Has your old clientele followed you to La Petite Maison?
Cooking is my passion, so of course it’s a great feeling to be in the kitchen and going through this opening. It’s nice to show my clientele a different version of Alain Allegretti. The style of the restaurant is very different, which gives me the opportunity to show diners something different.
What were the struggles, if any, of stepping in as chef at a restaurant with an established and popular outpost in Nice with a prescribed menu?
I have a special duty to stay true to the original cuisine from LPM in Nice. As I said before, I am tailor-made for this place, so bringing my experience and talent is always a plus.
The Nice location of La Petite Maison has a reputation for being a bit of a celebrity hangout. How is the one here different? Do you find many French expats in the dining room?
We don’t want to be different since the concept of LPM works very well as it is. So whether you dine at LPM in Nice or New York, the entire experience should always be the same.
How much influence did you have on the menu? How did you manage to get your provencal fish soup on?
All of my twists and new dishes were appreciated, as long as they matched the concept and the cuisine. The recipe for my fish soup has been around for a long time. I am just taking my grandmother’s recipe & giving it my own spin.
Did you bring any other dishes over from Allegretti?
The dishes that were well received at Allegretti and also match the concept of LPM are Les petits farçis Niçois (stuffed baby vegetables Niçoise style), Tagliolini à l’encre de seiche (black tagliolini with shrimp, sea urchin and Serrano peppers) and Carré d’agneau en croûte d’herbes (herb crusted rack of lamb).
Do you source any ingredients at La Petite Maison from your farm upstate?
The volume at LPM is too big to be provided by my farm so we source elsewhere.
How long have you had your farm and what do you grow there? Do you raise any animals, like pigs or cows as well?
I do not use the farm anymore, but hope to start using it again in the very near future.
How long have you known your chef de cuisine, Arno Busquet, and what was it like collaborating on the menu with him?
I have only known Arno for a few months, but so far it’s been great. He has a nice background and was looking for his first experience in NYC so we sent him to LPM in Nice for a few months to absorb all the recipes, skills, etc. in order to train the staff here in NYC. We both have different responsibilities in the kitchen and so far it’s been working out really well.
If we come for dinner, what should we order? What are your favorite dishes on the menu from appetizers to dessert?
I am very proud of everything on our menu, but I always recommend that guests order the classic specialties of Nice – the fish soup, artichoke salad, stuffed baby vegetables, and the zucchini blossom beignets!
Other than your own restaurant, where do you go for great French food in New York?
I usually don’t go out for French food. I love going out for Asian – Vietnamese, Thai or Chinese.
How long will you stay on consulting at La Petite Maison? Any chance you’ll stay for good?
Only time will tell! I will be here as long as my presence is required and if we are bringing the concept across the country or to other countries.
Any other projects on the horizon for you?
New York City offers all kinds of opportunities every day. The doors are always open for me!
La Petite Maison
Address: 13-15 W. 54th St. nr. Fifth Avenue
Phone: (212) 616-9931