"I’m from Long Island, but my family is Italian, and we spent our summers in Puglia where my mother is from. It’s a very idyllic, agricultural town where all the trees are filled with figs and we would spend mornings pressing our own olive oil. My father was a restaurateur–I remember him saying, 'you can do whatever you want when you grow up as long as it’s not in the restaurant business and as long as you become a lawyer.' So I became a lawyer, and after three months I told my dad I was going into the restaurant business. [Laughs]
I was 26 when I opened my first place. Back then it was before Open Table and the internet. I had no budget, but I was completely committed to customer service in a way that is kind of lost today. The restaurant was called Bellini, and after about two years it really became a scene–the mob would come in, the police commissioner and Walter Cronkite were regulars. While I was in the process of opening my third restaurant—which was also when I was a judge on Iron Chef—I decided to attend culinary school. My classmates were so confused! But I wanted to master every aspect of the business. And thank God I did it.
I used to be a brunette, almost 12 years ago, but my hairstylist now is Davide Torchio at Privé, and he does magic with color. Besides, I feel younger when I’m blond. [Laughs] Still, I always use an SPF in my hair–it’s important! I love Oribe products even though they’re overpriced, because it all smells so good and it feels like I’m getting a spa treatment every morning. For my hair, I think the best thing is to not wash it every day, and then do a lot of hydrating treatments. I’ll shampoo twice and then use a leave-in-conditioner, because Davide told me to and I do everything he says. I also use a root amplifier like Adam Broderick Volumizing Hybrid because I have very fine hair, and it gives it some volume. I blow dry my hair upside down, brush it out, and then either straighten or curl a few pieces. Sometimes I’ll use dry shampoo–I have the Klorane one and the Oribe too, but I just ran out of that. When I was younger I was always working at the restaurants, so I’d keep it slicked back into a ponytail. The idea was that if people can see your hair, it makes them think they’re going to see it in their food.
In New York I go to Juvenex where they have this scrub that kind of takes the skin off you–it’s not for the faint of heart. They they’ll walk on your back and stretch you…I kind of like to get beaten up when I get a massage. I do love massages, and I love scrubs! At home, Limelight’s Bamboo and Lemongrass body scrub is really good. I take lots of candlelit baths, so my son and I will make bath bombs out of citric acid, Epsom salt, corn starch and food coloring, plus whatever oils you want. I really like Doterra–they’re the best! Lavenderand eucalyptus are my favorites.
Marina Peredo on Park Avenue is an amazing cosmetic dermatologist–I haven’t done any work at this point, but I have done some non-invasive treatments. I go through phases of lines, and right now all my products are Limelight by Alcone. I’m obsessed because it’s all chemical-free, cruelty-free, and they're all about empowering women. The products themselves are such high quality, too. My face wash is the Dream Clean, and I love their Skin Polish, which is a lemon and jojoba bead face mask.
Makeup, I love. It’s a lot less expensive than shoes and it never cares what size you are. I like to play up my eyes–eyeliner and individual lash extensions. I use these Ardell ones with tweezers and glue for events, photos, maybe date night. To help hide the glue, I’ll put some Limelight eyeliner over it, and it makes a huge difference. I like MAC concealer, which I put under my eyes and a little on my nose. I’ll use one of these little Beautyblenders to apply this Shiseido BB Cream, and then banana powder to help kind of set everything once I’m done.
L’Oréal’s Voluminous Mascara is my favorite, and for brows, MAC’s Brow Sculpt pencil is what I use. And I always wear a lip gloss–I have really large lips, so when I put on gloss it’s like, ‘bam!’ My go-to for everyday is Limelight’s Signature Gloss in Peace–I tend to like more pink-y colors. I always wear bronzer and blush–I love this Nars duo in Laguna and Orgasm. For eyes, I use a lot of neutrals with a slight shimmer, like this Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick. I’ve had a lot of experience with other people putting makeup on me, so I’ve learned what kinds of things do not translate well. I usually go for something soft, blended out, with just a bit of shimmer. I like my skin to look dewy and not tired. When you’re in your '40s, it’s all about looking like you’re not in your '40s." [Laughs]
—as told to ITG
Donatella Arpaia photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York on February 16, 2017.