Instagram’s Beloved “Grossy Pelosi” on Why the Kitchen Table Is the Secret to Health
"It goes beyond the food," says Brooklyn-based, Italian-American chef Dan Pelosi. "Food is love, and food is community."
If joy is the secret to longevity, we can expect Dan Pelosi to be around awhile—which seems likely. In September 2023, the chef published his first cookbook, Let’s Eat, which became an instant New York Times bestseller.
Pelosi also has a community of over 150,000 Instagram followers that include actor Busy Philipps, chef Molly Baz and Drew Barrymore. (It was on Barrymore’s daytime talk show where Dan explained that his childhood nickname and current Instagram handle, @grossypelosi, was inspired by Barrymore’s character in Never Been Kissed!) With the loyal audience he built from the coziness of his kitchen, Pelosi’s fans have been turning out at his book events across the country to grab a hug, and sometimes a snack, with the chef who became famous for his joyful cooking demonstrations of unabashedly delicious comfort food.
Pelosi was set to celebrate World Pasta Day on October 25 by teaming up with Barilla Pasta to celebrate the joy of gathering loved ones around the table—however the chef and the pasta brand jointly opted to go dark for the observation out of sensitivity for current world events.
Still, Pelosi chatted with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest, making it abundantly clear why his friends call him Mom: “The things that we experience when we’re sitting at a table with people that we love are the things that keep us alive,” he says.
The Healthy @Readers Digest: Congrats on Let’s Eat! Your notoriety boomed during the pandemic, and now you’re out on the road meeting your followers in person.
Dan Pelosi: I’ve been on tour for the past month with this book, and it’s been so wonderful having the opportunity to meet people, talking about how we all sort of got through the past three years together where we were all sort of alone. It’s just been so beautiful.
The Healthy: In a world that seems like plant-based everything everywhere, you’ve doubled down on the art of comfort food—pasta, meatballs, brownies—which can also have their own places within a healthy life. What’s your nutrition philosophy when you cook?
Dan Pelosi: My nutrition philosophy is that everyone’s nutrition philosophy should be very personal to them. I very much don’t tell people what should work for them or what could work for them. I think that food is joy.
The Healthy: Love that. What sparked your passion for cooking?
Dan Pelosi: My family dinners were a very sort of central experience in my life. It was really important for my family to come together every night during the week and eat. It was the time when we all got to be together, and then on the weekends or on Friday night, the larger extended family gathered. There was always pasta on the table.
In my book I have 15 pasta recipes, and I think four of them use spaghetti as their hero pasta. Barilla shared with me that 65% of people feel that they were eating much more solo meals during the pandemic, so what a beautiful way to bring people together at this time.
The Healthy: You’re well known for cooking for your friends here in New York. Have there been moments of the book tour when you’ve been homesick?
Dan Pelosi: I have to say my people who show up to these events have been wearing merchandise, or we’ve all been painting our nails red [Pelosi’s signature look], or they’re bringing me gifts and food. I feel like my mom and my aunts and my family are showing up through all these people. The connectivity is amazing.
The Healthy: Your red nail polish even made its way into the book design!
Dan Pelosi: It’s the spine color and the font color and it just makes me so happy. It’s all about the details.
The Healthy: Do you have any specific practices in terms of self-care, diet, exercise?
Dan Pelosi: I think it’s taking a moment to sit down and to step out of the kitchen to know when I need to go outside. I am one of those people who can spend all day in the kitchen and the time just passes. I think going for a walk is really helpful. I think that when I’m recipe-testing, I make sure I pace myself.
The Healthy: More and more research is showing that having community helps our longevity. Do you notice that in your life?
Dan Pelosi: Absolutely. I always think about my grandfather who’s 101 years old, who I dedicated my book to. I’ve watched that man at family dinners eat more food than most, and the conversation and the laughter.
I think all of the things that we experience when we’re sitting at a table with people that we love are the things that keep us alive. It goes beyond the food. Food is love and food is community.