A Q&A With 'Pig: A Restaurant' Scribe Leila Cohan-Miccio
Tomorrow evening marks the local debut of Pig: A Restaurant, a play from Boston-food-writer-turned-New-York-comedy-writer Leila Cohan-Miccio. While the play was originally written to poke fun at the New York restaurant industry, Cohan-Miccio, a New York dweller and Boston native, relied upon her three years at the helm of Grub Street Boston (from 2007-2010) to tweak the play to reflect the scene in Boston. The show centers around a restaurant opening in SoSoSoWa (“…that might just be Roxbury,” Cohan-Miccio says) and the nutty cast of characters putting it together. Earlier this week, I
commiserated chatted with Cohan-Miccio about what it was like to cover the local restaurant scene here, what to expect in the play, and real-life restaurant openings from hell. (Tickets are still available for the show, which will be at 7 p.m. tomorrow evening at ImprovBoston.)
Did you start out as a comedy writer and ended up writing about food incidentally, or was it the other way around?
The other way around, really. I started out working at what was initially MenuPages, and then when they got bought by New York magazine, Grub Street. [Ed. note: MenuPages is no longer affiliated with Grub Street]. And then right around the same time, I started taking improv classes. So they happened at pretty similar times. I didn’t expect to fall for comedy as much as I did. I thought that working as a food writer was very much my career, and this was a fun side thing to do. And then I ended up switching.
When you were at Grub Street Boston, you wrote that from New York, correct? How was that?
It was funny—initially, all of the Grub Street bloggers were in New York. And then as we left one by one, we were replaced by people in the actual cities, which was obviously a much [easier thing]. I think I got away with it because at the time I was doing Grub Street, there wasn’t really much else. I really think we were the only professional food blog in Boston, so I was sort of the only game in town. It was certainly possible to do from New York, but not completely ideal.
Was it your time as a food writer in Boston that inspired Pig: A Restaurant?
Yeah, definitely. It was a big part of it, working in the food world and seeing the atmosphere. Lauren [Adams, who stars in the play] worked in the front of house at some of New York’s top restaurants. As we became friends, we started writing a show together. We we were talking about how there’s so many funny things about the food world.
So what’s the play about?
It’s one act, and it’s just several different characters, and they are all at the opening of this restaurant, called Pig: A Restaurant. On one hand it is several different character pieces, but you get the arc of the night from the chef delivering the lineup speech, to the owner, who is slowly losing her mind, to the hostess, who doesn’t know anything about food. You meet the supplier for the restaurant, who grows everything in his triple-decker in Mattapan.
The show originally contains New York references. Did you only tweak it for Boston?
The version in New York is New York-based. We went to LA and we didn’t make any changes, because we felt that we didn’t know the LA scene too well. For Boston, I felt like I could do the right references. The whole thing, is that now the restaurant is in SoSoSoWa. It might just be Roxbury (laughs). [The chef] serves dinners in empty cars on the Orange Line.
Any horror stories from actual opening parties you’ve been to?
The first one I went to, probably, was Splash, and that was the most misguided venture I have ever been to. The opening [itself] wasn’t a nightmare; I just sat in the corner with a friend and got drunk. But there was the weirdness of sitting in cabanas and looking a the regal splendor of the overpass. I didn’t go to a ton in Boston, because I was in New York. I would come for a week every few months and go out as much as I could then. I also went to an opening once in New York for a Fig & Olive [a New York-based chainlet]. It’s a fine restaurant situation, but it also was like the grossest, grossest people. I got hit on by a man who was wearing a wedding ring, and it was that kind of party.
What do you miss the most about covering the food scene here?
I liked getting the chance to talk to cool people like [chefs] Will Gilson, and Louie [DiBiccari] and Jamie [Bissonnette] and those guys. I also miss having the excuse to go to Boston so often. That being said, I think the scene is so underrated. It’s just really enjoyable and the restaurants are great and the Boston bars are some of my favorites even though they close early.
What do you miss the least?
Oh god, lots of things. By the end, I was just like, “If I have to write, one more time, about an upscale comfort menu and pretend that lobster mac and cheese is of any interest to anyone…” I started joking that I was going to start calling our events roundup “Another Day, Another Fucking Wine Dinner.” At that point, I just couldn’t find anything else interesting to say.
I think towards the end of your time there, that’s when the comfort food thing was all really blowing up.
Yeah! I was just like, are you making this menu with Mad Libs?
Now, the phrase of the moment is “shareable small plates.”
I mean, Boston, is really great, but since it’s so small, even more than New York it gets hit with the trends so hard. Before the upscale comfort thing, there was literally like a dozen steakhouses opening within a month.
Will you be here for the Boston show?
Yep, for the weekend.
Where will you eat?
After the show we will go somewhere in Inman. And I love Inman Square, it’s a great restaurant neighborhood. Also, the danger of me going to Boston always is that I will just feel lazy and hang out at my mom’s house in Roslindale, which happens about 50% of the time I go home.
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