Go Away With … Cheryl Della Pietra

Cheryl Della Pietra by Helen Barnard x 640

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
July 21, 2015

More than two decades ago, Cheryl Della Pietra worked as Hunter S. Thompson’s editorial assistant. Her job description included late-night partying with the famous author and ensuring that he typed up a page each evening to turn into his publisher. In her lively debut novel, “Gonzo Girl” (Touchstone Hardcover, $24.99), Della Pietra writes about a young Ivy League graduate who will only get paid if her boss, gonzo journalist Walker Reade, completes the book he owes his editor.

Della Pietra’s life is a little more sedate these days. “I currently live in Branford, on the Connecticut shoreline, a few miles from where I grew up and a stone’s throw from New Haven,” says Della Pietra, 45. “We moved back there eight years ago from Brooklyn, when my son was born.” For more information on her book, check out Simon & Schuster.com.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. I can’t believe I’ve made it to 45 and never been to Paris. It’s kind of dumb. I hope to go this year. And everyone talks about Iceland like there’s fairy dust on the streets — or maybe actual fairies dispensing the dust. So, I’d like to check that out.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. The Out Islands of the Bahamas. I’ve been to Abaco and Eleuthera. Go to a secluded beach. Take your clothes off. Surf. Swim. Bring sunscreen. Drink a Kalik (beer). Develop a taste for grouper, cracked conch and pineapple.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. I guess this is a bit of a cliche, but it was Walt Disney World. When you’re 6, it’s hard not to enjoy Disney World, but I remember the plane trip the most. I was dressed in a sundress and matching hat that my mom had sewn, white gloves and patent leather shoes. I miss the days when flying was elegant, instead of a slumber party for amateur alcoholics.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. Don’t feel like you have to do everything in a guidebook. I can have serious overachieving traveler stress, which completely belies the purpose of a vacation. Having a quota — like one or two touristy things a day — is a good rule of thumb. I mean, you can’t go to New York and not see the Statue of Liberty. But I think you have to ask yourself if you’re going to get a new perspective on life by visiting the wax museum. You’ll get more out of going to a bar.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Montauk, Martha’s Vineyard, Boston and NYC. And my 9-year-old son utterly loves Las Vegas, which I fear is some type of foreshadowing.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?

A. Rome. Something takes over the sensible part of your brain when you land there. There’s like an army of single men who go to “work” every day on the Spanish Steps wooing foreign ingenues. In my early 20s, I let a complete stranger drive me around on a Vespa for half a day like we were on a reality show — something I would never have done in America. We ate pizza and stopped for espresso and then he stranded me at the top of some overlook when I wouldn’t kiss him. He said he was a cop. And the funny thing is, I believe it.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?

A. My aunt and uncle used to own a gorgeous, beachy bed-and-breakfast in Wells, Maine, and they used to host Christmas up there for our large Italian family. It would have been the perfect setting for some novel about family dysfunction that would have been made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, but we all like each other too much. My cousin gave birth to her first son on Christmas Eve, and we carted what was left of the “seven fishes” to the hospital for the nurses. When the 12 of us walked in, lobster spaghetti in one hand, stuffed clams in the other, the nurse just looked at us and said, “Are you Puerto Rican or Italian?”

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Comfortable, but stylish shoes, a swimsuit, a good book and a notebook and a Yelp app.

Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?

A. Possibly Japan, just for all of the imaginative, weird stuff. I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy bread in a can out of a vending machine or have the morgue-like experience of chilling in a nap pod while eating a black burger?

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?

A. I don’t like roughing it anymore. I stayed in lots of crappy hotel rooms when I was younger. I like a nice hotel and a good meal.

Q. What is your best vacation memory?

A. My husband used to work for a golf magazine and I got to tag along on his story about the Scottish Highlands. So he would play golf all day and I would tour Scotch whisky distilleries, and we’d meet up at the end of the day — both of us very happy for different reasons — and then we’d stay in some incredible hotel. And the best part is we didn’t have to pay for it.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. I think when people think Nova Scotia they think snow shoes or parkas, maybe lox. And they might be right 10 months of the year. But in July, if you drive up the coast from Yarmouth to Halifax (stopping at a B&B in Lunenburg along the way) for the 45 seconds per year that it’s actually hot, you feel like a genius.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. Pink Sands, Harbour Island. The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, Scottish Highlands. Boonville Hotel, California.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Seattle, for the beer; San Francisco, for the vibe; New York, for the food; Sydney, because it reminds me of San Francisco; Rome, for the culture.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. My extended family used to own the Hotel San Francesco on the Amalfi Coast in a small town called Maiori in Italy. I know, right? When my sister and I went to visit, it was amazing how familiar these strangers were to us. There were so many similarities in the way we looked and spoke.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. This is like where they ask you about what book you’re reading and you say “War and Peace” when what you’re really reading is “50 Shades of Grey.” I know I’m supposed to say Nobu or Le Bernardin, but I love off-the-beaten-path gems that I have some personal connection to. Tu Lan in San Francisco has amazing Vietnamese food in a neighborhood where you might get shivved. I dream about the Burmese restaurant Rangoon in Philadelphia. Barcelona is my date-night go-to in New Haven, with great tapas. I lived in New York City for 15 years, so there are too many to count there: Xi’an Famous Foods. Lupe’s East L.A. Kitchen in Soho was basically our dining room for most of a decade. The Slanted Door in San Francisco. Nick’s in Long Beach near my sister (get the deviled eggs). Il Bistro in Seattle was where we used to go when our restaurant shifts were over.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. Have I mentioned I like food? I’m a Yelp whore. It’s all about the restaurants.

© 2015 JAE-HA KIM
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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