What I Ate Today: Bua’s Nick Testa

What I Ate Today is a recurring column in which a chef choses three meals to represent their everyday. This week: Nick Testa of Bua.

Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia
Photos by Roslyn Julia

Like many chefs who spend late nights at the restaurant, chef Nick Testa of Bua in New York City’s East Village can’t start his morning without coffee.

Meal #1: Cold brew

I like cold brew because it’s so bold and strong, and it’s a bit sweeter on the tongue than regular coffee. And it’s easier on my stomach than more acidic hot brewed coffee. If I’m out and about in the city, I go to La Colombe; their pure black cold brew on draft is the business. But it’s also really expensive: I can easily spend upwards of $60 a week on coffee, so I’ve started to make my own cold brew at home. I grind up a melange of whatever beans I have in the house, which I get from a bar patron who runs a coffee distributorship. No blend is ever the same. Then later in the day, I throw my cold brew into the Soda Stream and carbonate it to make coffee soda. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to drink Manhattan Special, which is a really strong, tasty, sweetened espresso soda that you can buy in bodegas or little Italian delis. I worked in a deli as a kid and I used to stock the sodas. Once in a while, I’d pocket a Manhattan Special and chug it in the walk in.

Meal #2: Shitty bodega sandwich 

I’ll always enjoy a shitty bodega bacon, egg and cheese sandwich: soft poppy seed kaiser roll, American cheese, crispy bargain brand bacon, scrambled egg and “SPK” – salt, pepper, ketchup. I started working in delis when I was in high school, and when we were kids, rolling back from the bars at 4 in the morning, I’d open up the kitchen and make egg sandwiches for all my friends.

Meal #3: Breakfast two ways

My other favorite breakfast food is French toast sticks (which he put on the menu at Bua). What I enjoy most are the frozen ones from the box, so I started experimenting with my own, trying to come up with a recipe that is the closest to any boxed french toast stick you’ll ever get. That flavor is so nostalgic. I make a heavy, sweetened batter with lots of cinnamon and vanilla, let it soak into the bread, and then give it a dunk in a rice flour mixture to give it a crunchiness when it goes into the frier. I always use nice challah bread with a decent crust. Our challah pullman does the best job: it’s got crust on each end and is soft in the middle.

But on most days, Nick channels the 80s and digs into a box of his favorite childhood cereal.

My parents were divorced when I was growing up and my mother was always at work, so it would be up to me to cook. I always wanted cereal or frozen French toast sticks. If it was cereal, it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch. A little CTC in your life – you can’t go wrong with that. It’s still stocked in my cabinet to this day. I’m a half-a-box kind of guy, maybe more. When I get up, I bring the box, a half gallon of milk, my bowl and my spoon, and I park in front of the TV with my schnauzer Norman and watch The Price is Right. That’s my morning ritual.