I’ve always loved reading memoirs. But as I’ve gotten older, my taste has gotten better. Have no time now for those ghost-written, celebrity rock, movie, TV or chef stars who flamed out all because it was somebody else’s fault that they did all those horrible movies, series, albums, restaurants, got married and divorced 5 times and did umpteen drugs and booze.

Hang with me here, but I’ve never wanted to be part of a book club either. I figure I can easily decide if I like a book or not and why, without having to defend it. But if there was one book club I would have loved to attend was a group in 90’s New York who would find those ridiculous celeb autos in the remainder bins and have a ball reciting verbatim from them onstage at their book club. Now that sounds like a pound on your thigh laugh fest. And apparently it was. One writer wound up his review of one of Richard Pryor’s ex-wives book, with a quote from her, I’m an oxy-moron.

Michael Cecchi-Azzolina

So where am I going with all this? Well, Anthony Bourdain set the standard for the tell all in the restaurant world with Kitchen Confidential. Combining fun, interesting, well-written, drug fueled stories about his time being a ham and egger chef in New York. So, when I picked up Michael Cecchi-Azzolina’s Your Table Is Ready, I wasn’t surprised to read some debauchery, famous names, insider stuff on what goes on in top restaurants in New York, plus, a lot of fun, heartbreak, history and striving stories as well.

But what really came thru Cecchi-Azzolina’s book for me, was his love of restaurants that’s never going to leave. Moi aussi. So, it was cool to hook-up with Mike and ask him about his Cecchi’s, Modern Bar and Grill that he’s opening in New York on West 13th in the West Village, talk restaurants, food, culture and get him to do the NSI quiz. Cheers and enjoy…

What was last night’s dinner? Thai takeout. Duck with green curry. Been so crazy trying to set things up here. No time to cook, but it was fine.

What’s your favorite music? I like all kinds, but I really like those 80s bands: Depeche Mode, the Cure, the Smiths, Tears For Fears.. (I told Mike those were all clunkers for me, but the Web Gal loved them and was going to their west coast shows and for my sins, I was also having to go to Duran Duran, which made him laugh his head off.)

What’s your favorite drink? Hey, you read my book, you got to know it’s a shot of ice-cold Vodka with a twist of lemon.

What’s your favorite NY place to eat? (Slight groan) Oh, I get asked that all the time. I don’t eat out too much, prefer to eat at home. But if I do go out, I like Fanelli’s. Nice outdoor patio, can take the kids, know the owner, great food and people watching.

What makes a great restaurant? The energy. If you don’t have that vibe when people step into your restaurant that they’re in for a great meal and a good time, not saying you’re dead but you’re definitely in trouble. You got to create that buzz.

Favorite thing about living and working in New York? Everything is here. If you want to go to a beach, it’s a half hour away. Want to go to a mountain, two hour drive north, upstate. Plus, all the incredible things the city has to offer.

Any brush with celebrity? (Side note: Mike’s book is filled with celeb snapshots, so I prompted him by saying Brooke Shields gave you a blurb on your book.) Yeah, Brooke is fantastic, been coming to my restaurants for a long time, same with Sarah Jessica Parker, her and Mathew are a great couple and very down to earth and have been coming to my restaurants for over 20 years.

Any wine, trip or restaurant on your bucket list? Oh, that’s a toughie, but if I had to choose, I’d like to go La Tâche Winery (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) in Burgundy and sip some of their wines.

Final thoughts? If there’s one thing I wish people would do, when you come to a restaurant put your phone away. All this posting on Instagram and Tik Tok, what good does it do? Who are you trying to impress? Why not put your phone away and enjoy the meal and your company. Amen to that bro.