The self-proclaimed “Italian meatball making meatballs,” aka loveable home cook Dan Pelosi, is infiltrating homes everywhere with his recently-released cookbook, Let’s Eat.
Quickly a New York Times Bestseller, Pelosi’s book of 101 recipes is chock-full of family recipes from his 101-year-old grandfather, his mom and delicious classics with a twist—like his “Italian Gay Wedding Soup” on page 85.
With his brightly painted nails and a huge smile, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Pelosi and his internet personality “Grossy.” His brand, centered around family and community, has gained him 160k Instagram followers, and his account is still growing.
As the “gay male version of a Pinterest Mom,” Pelosi is serving up delicious, homey recipes with a side of humor and a scoop of being incredibly relatable on top. He's on a mission to prove that anyone can cook and create community through food, and we spoke to Pelosi to learn more about how he’s making that dream come true for all.
If this was somebody’s first time being introduced to you as your internet personality, as “Grossy Pelosi,” what would you want them to know?
I love that question. What I am hoping to bring to the food world with my online presence and my recipes and my cookbook is sort of a tool, [to help] people to embrace cooking as something comfortable, and as something that they can do for themselves and others that is not stressful but that is full of joy. When I found myself in a position to help people feed themselves and stock their pantries to stay at home during the pandemic, a lot of people did not know what to do. I found that food and being in the kitchen is a source of a lot of anxiety for people. It’s been my safe space my whole life, being in the kitchen with family and friends. When I started writing recipes, people said, “I feel like you’re in the kitchen with me while I’m cooking with the way that you write.” I was like, “That’s it.”
I want to be that friend in the kitchen with you, who you want to cook with, and who you want to ask, “Wait, how did you do that?” Or “Oh, that was delicious. How do I do that again?” Or “What should I make for dinner? I’m having my mom over.” I just want to be that person. I’m not a professional. I’ve never cooked in restaurants. I’m like your friend who sort of is a pretty solid home cook, and I hope to write and present myself that way.
You mentioned the pandemic. That’s when you were launched into internet fame. How did that experience, being in quarantine, affect your day-to-day life when everything started opening back up again?
When things shut down, I wasn’t able to do what I love to do, which is have dinner parties. To set a table and put the food down and be like, “Let’s eat,” which is also the name of my book. So, of course [after the pandemic], I was delighted to be able to welcome people back into my home. I was lucky that during the pandemic, I had an outdoor seating area where I did a ton of cooking, but whether it was people coming to pick up food or to have a bite and come over for a meal, I think it allowed me to bring that sort of joy back into my life. What I mean by that is sitting around the table, feeding people, telling jokes, laughing, getting feedback on the recipes I was writing for my cookbook at the time and doing what I’ve done my whole life. My family was the kind of family that talked about what was for lunch at breakfast and what was for dinner at lunch. That was what we centered ourselves around. We always ate dinner together as a family, big family dinners on the weekends. So, it was lovely to be able to put my dining table back to work.
Family plays a huge role not only in your life but also in your brand via this idea of family and community. How did your family influence the cookbook?
Oh my gosh, just in the biggest way possible. Everything I’ve learned was from them. I grew up in kitchens, and like I said earlier, it’s my safe space. With the stories that accompany the food, the taste memories, and the fact that my grandparents would let me taste the marinara and give them feedback 20 times per pot—they knew that I just wanted to keep eating it. They knew the marinara tasted fine, but they still let me taste it and give them that “Oh, that’s not perfect,” you know? I think it’s all of those experiences. My mom, my aunts, my cousins—people that I called daily during the pandemic, and then when I started writing the book even more so, it just has been such a natural way to talk about food. Growing up as an adult, my friends, whom I consider family, are also such a huge part of that narrative. I have surrounded myself with like-minded people who love to cook and people who love to be fed. So it’s just been so great to have them all be part of the experience. I am not a self-made home cook. I’m cooking the food that I’ve learned from everyone.
Are there family recipes in this book?
So many family recipes and so many family stories. I love to give people credit for their recipes as well. I have my grandfather, who’s 101 years old, and the book is dedicated to him. His name is Bimpy, and he has some of his recipes. My mom’s recipes. My aunt’s recipes. They’re all in there, and I love to talk about that. I also love when people take my recipes and call them “their family recipe” or their own. I think we’re all sharing this wonderful, beautiful thing, which is food.
Would you say that was the goal of the book, to create community through food?
Oh my gosh, absolutely! It’s what I realized I was capable of doing in a much larger way than just my real-life interactions. When the pandemic hit, I was able to use my knowledge and my conversation around food and those stories to build a large community of people, many of whom I’ve just met IRL, and on my book tour, which has been so wild. Because I’ve been talking to these people online for three years and a half years, and now I’m meeting them. I think it’s my goal in everything I do, truly. I don’t have a ton of other big hobbies. If we’re going to hang out, I’m going to either cook for you or we’re going out to eat. That’s just how I socialize, and I’m so lucky to be able to turn that into my career, and my career is now dedicated to helping other people do that.
I get people who message me so many lovely things. Like, “I made your pasta dish for my first date with my boyfriend, and now we’re getting engaged.” That has actually happened to me multiple times on my book tour. Or “Thank you for giving me that 10-minute spaghetti dish that I could make and feed my family after a long day at work,” or people telling me that their kids are calling my recipe "mom’s recipe.” And I just think that’s so beautiful because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m taking mom’s recipes, my grandparents’ recipes, and I’m sharing them with them. I’m like, “Baby, tell your son that’s your recipe,” I don’t need credit. Mom having beautiful recipes that her kids can grow up remembering is just unbelievable to me. It’s next level. So so special.
What has the experience been going on your book tour as a first-time author?
It’s exhilarating. I’m a very social person. Also, I love the idea of togetherness, and the book tour is rooted in the same principles. We’re getting together in a room. I think it’s so cool to meet people, but I also think it’s so cool for these people to meet each other. I’ve said that my only wish over the past three and a half years was that all of the people who are DMing me could DM each other and talk to each other. Because I think that they’re so well suited for each other, and I want them all to meet and chat. Actually, at a dinner that I had in Chicago, we set up to take two large tables of individual people who signed up for the dinner. We just brought them all together. The people who were hosting the dinner at the restaurant were a little worried about these random individuals sitting together, and I was like, “Trust me, if they’re my people, they’re going to be just fine, do not worry,” and it was true. By the end of the night, one of the tables was like, "Grossy, we’re all gonna like go on vacation together." This is why we gather around a table with food and hang out with people, because we’re building relationships. It’s so cool.
Having said everything we've said, would you consider food to be a love language, and is it yours?
Oh, yes, and yes, unbelievably, unbelievably so. My boyfriend, I’ve been with him for almost three years. We met in March of 2021, and we were planning our first date, but it was a weird time. And I was like, “Oh, I have an outdoor table you can just like come over, and I’ll make you dinner.” He was like, “It’s our first date, that’s a little intense.” I was confused, like, what else would you do? We ended up going for a walk in the park, and I was like, “Is there a place we can eat?" So yeah, it’s 100 percent my love language, and I don’t mean just love in terms of relationships and partners. It’s, to everyone, how I have expressed myself the strongest throughout my whole life.
Photography by: Dan Pelosi