by jennifer demeritt
photography by doug young | February 16, 2015 | People
Hitha Prabhakar and Claudio Del Vecchio at Cipriani Dolci overlooking the Main Concourse at Grand Central Terminal.
Claudio Del Vecchio, CEO of Brooks Brothers, says that Cipriani Dolci, located on a balcony above Grand Central Terminal, is his go-to lunch spot, which makes sense, as the Brooks Brothers flagship is only a block away. He recently dined with Fox News retail analyst Hitha Prabhakar to compare notes about food, fashion, Zac Posen, Michelle Obama, and even Abraham Lincoln.
[Bellinis are served]
HITHA PRABHAKAR: Every time I come to Grand Central Station, I’m overwhelmed by the massiveness of everything. You have lunch at Cipriani a lot, right?
CLAUDIO DEL VECCHIO: It’s my cafeteria. I grew up in the north of Italy, close to Venice, and this is the type of cuisine they have, what my mother used to cook, so I feel comfortable here.
HP: What’s the difference between Northern and Southern Italian food?
CV: The south is more fish and tomato sauce, the north, more meat and cream sauce.
HP: I’ve tried to make a mean tomato sauce, but it doesn’t work for me. I can’t. I’m the Indian girl who can’t cook rice either.
CV: I make a great risotto. You have to be patient, first and foremost. For people who want something fast, it’s not going to work, because the rice has to absorb the broth slowly. And you need plenty of wine.
Tuna tartare with olive oil and capers.
[Appetizers are served: fish salad for Claudio, tuna tartare for Hitha]
CV: It’s the first time I’ve had this, but it looks good. On some days I have the octopus salad; it’s done the same way [with olive oil and lemon], but with octopus.
HP: This is delicious. I love how there isn’t too much of a citrus aftertaste. What really comes through is the smoothness of the olive oil, and the sprinkle of capers really accents the freshness of the fish.
CV: Buon appetito!
HP: Buon appetito. Everything is done so much by computer now—texting, mobile, e-mail. Do you think that the business lunch has lost its luster?
CV: When I want to talk about something that requires a little thinking, I always pick a table here. It’s hard in the office—there are too many distractions. We should be happy that Jackie Kennedy and her group saved Grand Central. It was supposed to come down.
HP: Right, she saved it.
CV: I’m sure she didn’t do a lot of the work, but she was a good ambassador.
HP: She was the best ambassador for everything.
Michelle Obama is brilliant, and I love everything about her, but I feel like her style is so manufactured. Maybe that’s just me talking from the fashion-journalist perspective—but it seems...
CV: It seems to me that she understands she has a job and she’s fulfilling the job, but in the end, it’s a job.
HP: Yes, that’s the most eloquent way to put it.
CV: Jacqueline was herself….I know she had some Brooks Brothers stuff. That’s a big part of our history—we’ve dressed 39 out of the 44 presidents. We have the mirror we made for Lincoln still in the store..
HP: In your flagship?
CV: Yes, on the fifth floor. We made that for him. He was six-feet-four when everyone else was five feet.
A server plates a pasta dish tableside.
[Entrées are served: pasta with branzino for Claudio and carrot soup for Hitha]
HP: This carrot soup is delicious. It looks like a purée, mixed with olive oil and some garnish on top, and it’s not too heavy. What are you having?
CV: I ordered spaghetti with branzino sauce. I like branzino and I like spaghetti. It’s a great combination.
HP: I heard that Zac Posen is going to be the creative director of womenswear at Brooks Brothers, to implement this idea of American glamour in a way that Brooks Brothers hasn’t in the past. How is he going to help highlight that?
CV: It’s really going to be about great American sportswear—our customer has always been that customer. Today our product is already very close to what I feel it should be. Bringing Zac in is going to take it to the next level.
HP: I started out in investment banking, and all we wore was Brooks Brothers. It’s so rooted in this corporate culture. Bringing on someone like Zac Posen—will the brand stay true to that core customer? Will it go in the direction of Marc Jacobs?
CV: No, because we’re talking about great American sportswear. We were talking about Jacqueline Kennedy. That’s what I have in mind.
HP: I cannot wait. I was in the store going through the Black Fleece stuff. We have this contest at Fox Business where viewers rate our shoes, so I suddenly have to up my ante on the shoe game. I saw these Thom Browne shoes, and I’m like, done. I’ll so win once I have my Black Fleece shoes on.
CV: Well, you don’t know yet.
HP: Mr. Del Vecchio, I win every single time.
Cipriani Dolci, Grand Central Terminal, 89 E. 42nd St., 212-973-0999
prabhakar’s hair and makeup by glamsquad