Encounters: Veronica Webb, Overseer of Pizza Parties

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Encounters: Veronica Webb, Overseer of Pizza Parties

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Encounters

By LAURA M. HOLSON

“It’s not glamorous taking out the recycling,” Veronica Webb said, as she carried a basket of plastic bottles and cardboard down the hall of her Upper West Side apartment.

It was a Saturday evening in late October, and Ms. Webb, 51, a supermodel and actress who was a runway star in the 1990s, had a houseful of teenagers over to celebrate her daughter Leila’s 14th birthday. Leila’s stepfather, Chris Del Gatto, 46, herded the chattering gaggle into the elevator while his wife disappeared behind a door and reappeared empty-handed.

The family was headed to Magnolia Bakery to pick up a birthday cake. For dinner, Leila wanted typical teenage fare: pizza, French fries and mozzarella sticks.

Outings like these are material for Ms. Webb’s new website, WebbOnTheFly.com, which she recently started and where she doles out advice on motherhood, beauty, fashion and wellness. She has reteamed with her former modeling agent at Muse Management, where she joined its influencer division.

Among other things, she plans to give speeches. Ms. Webb was one of the first black models to be signed to a major beauty contract (Revlon), and next year she is teaching a course at New York University about branding in the fashion industry.

At home, though, she empties the dishwasher as the family orders dinner.

“I don’t want pizza,” Ms. Webb said. “I’ll have French fries and red wine.”

“Why don’t we get pieces so everyone gets what they want?” Leila said.

“Let’s get two pies,” Mr. Del Gatto said.

“That’s too much,” Ms. Webb said. “How about getting one pie? We are going to make mozzarella sticks.”

They finally agreed on two margherita pizzas and some slices for Leila.

The teenagers sprawled on the couch, a tangle of arms and legs, and watched “Thor” while they waited for the pizza to arrive.

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Ms. Webb looked at Mr. Del Gatto. “Do we want to make fries?” she asked. “It’s already 8.”

The couple had received an electric air fryer as a housewarming gift. It is the size of an industrial rice cooker, and neither had used it. Ms. Webb consulted Siri on her iPhone. Mr. Del Gatto looked at the instructions. Unlike a typical fryer, it uses only a small amount of oil. “It’s supposed to be health conscious,” said Mr. Del Gatto, who appraises and sells fine jewelry.

Molly, Ms. Webb’s 12-year-old daughter, emerged from her upstairs bedroom, wearing a crimson cape. “Chris, did you blunt my sword yet?” she asked her stepfather. The plastic sword was part of the Little Red Riding Hood Halloween costume she bought online, but it was too sharp to play with. “No,” he said. “I’m teaching you patience.”

She asked her mother to straighten her hair. “I’ll do it in a minute, honey,” Ms. Webb said. She was watching a video on her cellphone about how to make fried mozzarella sticks.

Ms. Webb grew up in Detroit, the youngest of three daughters. “My mother was an amazing baker,” she said. “She always made soups and stews.” Ms. Webb’s favorite dish to cook is couscous royale, a lamb stew served over couscous. “I’ll call Azzedine, and he’ll talk me through it,” she said, referring to Azzedine Alaïa, the fashion designer, whom met in the late 1980s in Paris. “Azzedine is like my dad.”

She turned and saw Molly with a pint-size glass. “It’s five minutes before dinner and you are having a full glass of lemonade?” Ms. Webb said. “No!” She took the glass and poured most of the lemonade back into the bottle, leaving a healthy gulp for Molly.

The pizza arrived. Mr. Del Gatto handed out slices in the kitchen; a bowl of fries was placed on the table. Ms. Webb tasted one and nodded with approval. Len, Mr. Del Gatto’s 17-year-old son, came out from the den and joined his stepsisters at the table. His father asked him about school.

“Have you heard of ‘Brave New World’?” said Mr. Del Gatto, referring to the 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley. “My father used to say if you open a book, it will give you the world.”

At the table, one of Leila’s friends began to read palms. She turned to Len and asked for his hand. “He’s interested in love, but he’s not really open about his emotions,” she said. Len smiled sweetly.

After dinner, Leila and her friends bounded up the stairs to her bedroom. Len returned to the den. Wendy Wilke, Ms. Webb’s ice skating coach, stopped by for a glass of red wine. Every year, Ms. Webb takes on a new physical challenge, and this year was ice skating. Ms. Webb and Leila sometimes skate together, Ms. Wilke said: “It is beautiful to watch them, side by side.”

Mr. Del Gatto smiled at his wife. He said, “Everything we do as parents matters.”

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