Potlucks have to be one of society's greatest social contracts: everyone promises to bring something to the table, and we all feast together mightily. According to food legend, the term comes to us from Medieval dinners, where nothing was allowed to go to waste. Leftovers would be mixed up in a pot and kept warm for later, so when folks came in for a bite, they’d be served “the luck of the pot.” Some folks also say the word comes from the “potlatch,” a celebration that indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest used to mark special occasions like birthdays and weddings. The host would give away their possessions, including food, with the expectation of another host doing the same at another potlatch.
Over in present day NYC, the potluck is sort of synonymous with a mismatched dinner in our tiny apartments or a Friendsgiving over the holidays. But at the East Village’s L’Apicio they’ve committed to elevating the collage-like meal to a distinctly classy affair. Tucked between the Bowery and 2nd Avenue on a quiet block of 1st Street, the high-ceilinged trattoria feels vibrant and modern — an attitude they’re carrying over to the table.
The idea for the potluck grew out of the wine dinners L’Apicio was hosting for local oenophiles looking to learn more about their favorite vino. “We do a bunch of different kinds of events,” says Alexandra Moskovitz, the spot’s Director of Marketing & Communication. “The ones that are the most communal have been the most fun for people.” So putting together a wine-based potluck seemed like a natural step to take it all to the next level. “For us, we try to do things that we would want to do personally,” says Kaytlin Brakefield, a chef de cuisine at L’Apicio. “What do you do when you wanna hang out with your friends? You do a potluck.”
Each guest to their inaugural January dinner was asked to bring a hungry belly and a bottle of wine. The results were a bit of trial and error. Cooking for a big group of people, with differing tastes in wine, can indeed be a challenge. “There’s a bunch of people that you don’t know, so you want to do a bunch of different things to accommodate allergies etc.” Kaytlin explains. “At our first one, we just wanted to see who was going to come and what kind of wines people were interested in bringing. Everyone was happy, and it ended up being a little more of a mixer.”
The menu they put together for the whole shebang was a Beet Salad, Arancini, Charred Squid Salad, Mezzaluna, Short Rib Polenta, Brussels Sprouts, Tuscan Fries, a Cheese Plate and Assorted Dolci. (Yum.) “To do a new menu is fun and exciting for me,” Kaytlin says. “I actually have really loved the idea of everybody bringing their wine. Everybody just bring wine and we’ll figure it out. Soon we’ll do more of a theme around them and have people bring certain kinds.”
So what can we expect to share at the table in the future with our fellow New Yorkers? Kaytlin hints that Tuscany might be one of the first themes they’ll explore. “I’d really love to do porchetta. Also, a Florentine porterhouse (a large format awesome steak that they do in Tuscany) and some chicken liver pate, which is very popular there.” Count us in for some regional cookin’.
For tickets to the next potluck at L’Apicio check their website for details or call the restaurant at (212) 533-7400. Be sure to act fast: Alex and Kaytlin let us know that the first dinner in January sold out quick. The next dinner on the books will be on February 23rd from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person.