Dec 11, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Deborah Koenigsberger, Store Stylist & Owner, Noir et Blanc

Meet Deborah Koenigsberger, store stylist and owner of Noir et Blanc, a French-inspired boutique, located at 7 West 25th, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. “The key to the success of the store is our unmatched customer service over these many years, and the fact that I scour the shows in Europe to bring back little known brands,” says Koenigsberger. A few doors down at 11 West 25th Street, Koenigsberger also wears her hat as Founder and award-winning CEO of Hearts of Gold, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help homeless mothers and their children. “Last month, we raised the highest net amount of dollars ever for the organization. We netted over $870,000 to continue this vital work.”

1. You’re fluent in a number of languages and initially considered a career as a United Nations translator. But your passion for fashion and modeling directed you to become a retail entrepreneur. Three decades ago, you opened the boutique Noir et Blanc. Tell us more

Retail has changed SO much since I opened Noir et Blanc in 1989. We don’t just sell clothing but we style each woman, and that goes a long way with our clients. We give her the personal attention she needs to feel beautiful and confident in the pieces she purchases. In addition, I’m a stickler for detail and quality, so the collections we carry are well thought out and curated to create the best wardrobe she could have. My store manager, Karen, who has been with me for over 20 years now, and I constantly brainstorm about new ideas we want to incorporate in the collections and the store in general to keep things fresh.

2. On social media you’ve stated that the retail fashion business is an evolving industry and that “networking is a great way to meet new customers.” How has networking helped you as a small business owner? 

The value of networking cannot be overstated. Personally, I belong to a networking group, which I joined about four years ago, and it has helped my business tremendously. I’ve met other stylists and individual clients that I would have not come across in my normal everyday life, which has proven to be invaluable. It has opened new avenues for us.

3. Your concern about the plight of the homeless in Madison Square Park during the 1990s led you to become the Founder and CEO of Hearts of Gold. This not-for-profit organization will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2019. Describe Hearts of Gold and your role there as well as some of your recent achievements and plans for the future. 

My role at Hearts of Gold (HoG) is Founder and CEO, but I literally do everything and I am extremely hands on. Some of our recent achievements are the success of our HoG Learning Center, giving away our 1,000th backpack this past August during our Annual Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway and Block Party, and the graduation of several of our moms from our new initiative, the Career Development Program.

4. Over the years, Hearts of Gold has gained support from a number of high-profile individuals, including Grammy and Oscar winning singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder, Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, and Emmy winner and Today co-anchor Hoda Kotb. How has their participation and those of others helped Hearts of Gold’s mission? 

The participation of high-profile individuals never hurts as we all know and in HoG’s case, it has helped us to tell our story. Individuals like Marcia Gay Harden, Stevie Wonder, who was my inspiration for starting the charity, Rhonda Ross, and others have lent their name and support. This speaks to the ability of our story to reach out and touch. The fact that they support us legitimizes our work.

5. Is there any advice you can share with others who are interested in both social services and owning a business?

My advice to any entrepreneur is to do what you LOVE. Find your passion and exploit it to the maximum. Look for all the ways it can pay your bills, but also help someone else who is NOT as fortunate as you. It’s not so hard to do, and in the end, you will never regret that decision. Finally, get yourself a mentor or a coach who hears you and can help you to navigate the bumps that you are sure to encounter along the way.

6. You’re engaged in a busy work schedule, and you’re a wife and mother, too. How do you maintain work-life balance? 

Maintaining work-life balance is all about time management. Fortunately, I have an amazing husband and two pretty terrific boys, so that’s been hugely helpful. This is not to say that I don’t get overwhelmed, but when I do, I check out. Traveling is my absolute favorite pastime! It gives perspective to everything and clears my head. 

7. Switching gears to when you’re not working, where do you like to dine in the area? And, what’s your go-to dish? 

My two favorite places to dine in the area are ABC Kitchen and Hillstone. While very different from each other, each one is always an enjoyable, delicious experience with excellent service! The Miso Glazed Atlantic Cod at Hillstone is my fave and the Mushrooms, Parmesan, Oregano, and Farm Egg Whole Wheat Pizza at ABC Kitchen is delish!

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

Must-see and do in the neighborhood? Walk the side streets! The area has exploded and there is so much to discover! I love all the creative new shops and restaurants that are constantly popping up! 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area? 

All these years later, my favorite building remains the Flatiron Building. It’s genius and it represents my ‘other home’ to me.

10. Finally, choose three words, okay four, to describe the Flatiron District. Historically rich! Fashionable! Yummy! 

Nov 9, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Benjamin Cadena, Founder, Studio Cadena

Flatiron Faces: Benjamin Cadena, Founder of Studio Cadena and Winner of the 2018 Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition 

Meet Benjamin Cadena, Founder of Studio Cadena and winner of this year’s Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition. Cadena’s installation, Happy, will be on display on the Flatiron North Public Plaza from November 19th through January 1st. “I hope that the installation helps highlight the continued importance of public space in cities," says Cadena.

1. Congratulations on being selected as this year’s winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition for your installation, Happy. What was your reaction upon hearing the news? 

I was very, very happy.

2. Tell us about Happy. What was your inspiration for the installation and its name?

The idea for the design was to create an installation that could project a sense of warmth that we often associate with happiness–to induce a feeling rather than simply provide an image or a function. Although it exists as a temporary folly in the City, I also saw it as an opportunity to inscribe a small pocket of public space in the City which, by filtering the surrounding context, could create a warm space within. The name itself is aspirational and seeks to conjure an ideal or ambition that we all share. 

3. What do you hope will be the public's takeaway when experiencing the artwork?

More than a hundred years ago, across the street in Madison Square Park, the Rocking Chair Riots helped spark a discussion about public space in New York that continues to this day. We need to continue to carve out and design quality spaces accessible to all within the City. Also, my broader ambition is quite simple: I hope they smile.

4. In addition to your work with Studio Cadena, you’re also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. What inspired you to study architecture, and what advice do you have for those who may also be interested in the field?

With both my parents being architects, architecture has always been part of my life in one way or another. I initially sought a different path studying economics as an undergraduate and briefly worked in finance before drifting back into the world of architecture. It’s a very rich and multifaceted creative field where you get to shape the world we live in, but it takes a lot of work and dedication. My advice for those interested in the field is to learn as much as you can by going to lectures, events, and exhibitions where you can get a sense of what the profession might entail and see if it’s a world that you can fall in love with as I did.

5. A number of your designs can be found in South America, including your homeland of Colombia. What does your continued presence there mean to you?

It's where I grew up, so there will always be a part of me that is connected to Bogotá. I think there is great opportunity, too, for younger architects to build there and get more responsibility early on in their careers, which can be a challenge in places like New York. It’s also a place where there is still much to be done to have real impact on communities. I hope to continue to find work there.

6. In addition to being an award-winning architect, you co-founded talk20, a series of lectures and public forums organized in cities around the world. Tell us more. 

Talk20 was a great project that started in graduate school and lasted for about a decade in many cities around the world and still continues to live on. It was a live magazine that brought together architects, artists, and other creatives in different cities to share and showcase their work with a live audience. I've continued to be engaged in shaping and contributing to New York’s creative community by organizing events like 24x24x24 this summer at Storefront for Art and Architecture and a series last year called New Local, which brought together designers, leaders, entrepreneurs, and policymakers to exchange and generate ideas to shape the future of cities.

7. Your award-winning design and architecture studio is based in Brooklyn. When you cross the East River, where do you like to go to grab a bite to eat in the Flatiron District? And, what’s your go-to dish?

Every time I find myself around Flatiron, I love to just wander into Eataly to browse around their stalls and invariably come out with more food than I should eat. I always end up with some gelato on the way out. On special occasions, I would say not to miss Cosme for some quality Mexican food. 

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

Obviously, the Flatiron Building is the must-see landmark, but in the summer, Madison Square Park is a great place to sit on the grass on a sunny day. If you like ping pong, it’s also great to head over to SPiN for a drink and a game. 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

The Flatiron Building by far. It encapsulates the architectural ambitions of the City.

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Fun. Classic. Happy. 

Photo Credit: Studio Cadena

 

Oct 15, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Robert Pinzon, Owner, Abracadabra NYC

Meet Robert Pinzon, owner of Abracadabra NYC, the iconic costume and magic superstore that occupies 12,000 square feet at 19 West 21st Street. “It's fun to see customers having a blast trying on costumes and making fun of themselves,” says Pinzon. “It’s also been fun to meet a lot of celebrities here–from Shaquille O'Neal to Dionne Warwick!”

1.  You own Abracadabra NYC, the legendary costume and magic superstore that has been here in the Flatiron District since 1997. Tell us more about owning this place.

I bought the store in 2007. The store wasn't anything like it is today. We turned it around to be more like a destination store. We have interactive props all over that seem to be a crowd pleaser with the tourists who visit New York City. Our costume selection is huge. Our magic section is perfect for amateurs and professionals alike. Our professional makeup section is second to none. At first it was a challenge to get the store looking like it does now, and we needed to revamp every section. 

2.  Halloween is coming up in a couple weeks. What do you think will be some of this year’s must-have costumes?

That's really tough to answer. Most of the time we know what the best costume was after Halloween. However, consistently, the iconic superheroes are very popular–Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Joker. Yes, the Joker! The new superheroes are also always in demand. This year's Black Panther is going to be serious business.

3.  What have been your favorite items and biggest sellers over the years? And, how many costumes occupy your space?

I don't really have a favorite item. However, I do enjoy our magicians doing demonstrations of magic tricks for the customers. Most of the time it turns into a party atmosphere with people laughing and screaming. It's awesome!

The biggest sellers have been superheroes–from Star Wars to Deadpool, etc. There are so many of them, but people always want to be a superhero at least for a day. The store has 12,000 square feet. We occupy about 2,000 square feet for storage. Currently, we carry about 25,000 package costumes and accessories. Our rental department carries about 12,000 costume rentals. It is the largest in NYC.

4.  How did you initially become involved in costuming, and is there any advice you would share with others who are interested in this line of work? 

I became involved with Abracadabra because my brother was managing the store at the time. I thought it would be a fun business to run, so we bought it in 2007. I did gain some experience running a temporary Halloween store the previous year in 2006, so maybe that got me interested, too. My advice to others who might be interested in this line of work is...I feel like Abracadabra is a New York City thing, and being in the Flatiron District is a beautiful thing. The competition is fierce. There is also a big Halloween store downtown. In addition, the internet has taken a chunk out of our business.

5. Last year you considered selling the store. Why?

I thought I was done. I thought about selling and I had some investors interested. However, my kids didn't want me to sell it and they expressed an interest in taking it over. So I thought about it, thought about it, and three seconds later, I said, ‘YEAH, BABY!’ I really love the store and I'm a New Yorker. I grew up in the city in Upper Manhattan in Washington Heights. So now all the kids are actively involved, at some level, in the business. However, my son-in-law Brian is running the show at the store.

6.  Do you plan to celebrate Halloween this year? How so?

We celebrate Halloween at the store every year. The whole month of October is Halloween for us. The last few days before Halloween is party time. The store is packed, the music is going, the props are scaring people around every corner, and the employees are dressed in their favorite costumes. It's second only to the Halloween parade.

7.  Switching gears, when it’s time to leave Abracadabra NYC, where are your favorite spots to grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood? Do you have a go-to dish?

My favorite spot to get something to eat is at Essen on Sixth Avenue. They’ve got the best buffet in town. But I also love to bring mama's cooking (that's my wife) to work and eat it at the plaza on Broadway and 23rd Street.

8.  What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

You must see the Flatiron Building. What an awesome building! The architectural design and the details on that building are phenomenal. Now, what you must do here in the neighborhood is to stop by Abracadabra NYC. We were voted by The Guide to Odd New York as one of the Top 10 places to visit. It's the most unique store in the heart of NYC. Ask for Bob.

9.  What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

My favorite building in the area is definitely the Flatiron Building. It's also the favorite for a lot of visitors. I see it every day along with the amount of visitors taking pictures.

10.  Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

I LOVE IT!!!

Photo Credit: Hailey Rutt

Sep 17, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Ted Altschuler, Baruch Performing Arts Center

Meet Ted Altschuler, Director of the Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC), which showcases various award-winning artists and productions at its One Bernard Baruch Way location on 25th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues. “My role is the visionary and administrative oversight of the Center’s activities,” says Altschuler, whose arts career expands more than three decades. “Telling the stories and creating the experiences of our time is what excites me.”

1. The Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC) is a cultural gem here in the Flatiron District. Can you please give a bit more background on BPAC and your role as Director?

In two gorgeous and intimately-scaled venues 39 feet beneath 25th Street, between Third Avenue and Lexington Avenue, BPAC presents a season of world-class cultural events by New York and international [artists in] theatre, dance, classical music, jazz, and opera, as well as film screenings and talks. At the center of that season is new work made in-residence and culturally diverse programming created by critically acclaimed artists. Best of all, our central Flatiron location and our affordable prices! Some of October’s events include: 

Oct. 17 at 7:30 pm: Dada at the Movies: Part film screening, part concert, the amazing pianist Guy Livingston recreates an evening held by the famed Dada artists in 1923. It ended with the police showing up, but we plan to avoid that.

Oct. 26 – Nov. 4 (various times): Words on the Street: The world premiere of a multi-media, dystopian, music-theater mystery! This is an incredibly creative hybrid evening, but there are only eight performances.

Oct. 31 at 6:30 pm: Tessa Lark (violin) and Andrew Armstrong (piano): Avery Fisher Career Grant winner Tessa Lark is critically acclaimed for her elegance and is as talented playing classical as she is bluegrass on her Strad. We are offering tickets free of charge, but you must make a reservation at baruch.cuny.edu/bpac.

2. You’ve had a distinguished three-decade career working in the arts including directing plays and operas, as well as teaching at The Juilliard School. What attracted you to the arts, and what remains so appealing about it?

I have always lived by observing and collecting sounds, pictures, stories, and behavior and then either making things from them, or building places and processes where others do that. Arts are the way that our culture celebrates, processes, remembers, and opposes the narrative threads of our time. Money and fame confer influence temporarily, but they only survive because of the architecture, objects, pictures, stories, and songs that are left behind. Live performance, because it is fleeting perhaps, gets closest to capturing the essence of the moment.

3. Do you have any career advice for those interested in pursuing the arts?

Marry a chocolate heir/heiress.

4. Which of this season’s BPAC productions are you most looking forward to?

You know I’m not supposed to have favorites, but here are three pretty special events:

Jan. 5-12, 2019: 4:48 Psychosis: The Prototype new music-theatre festival is bringing the U.S. premiere of Philip Venables’  bombshell opera based on the final play of Sarah Kane to BPAC. Hot off a sold-out Royal Opera House production in London, the piece explores the search for love and identity amid the turmoil and confusion of mental illness.

March 13, 2019: Brian Mulligan (baritone) and Timothy Long (piano): Walden: A recital by two consummate musicians featuring the New York premiere of a new song cycle by Gregory Spears (Fellow Travelers) based on texts by Henry David Thoreau.

April 26-May 12, 2019: Refuge by Blessed Unrest and Teatri ODA: Two theater companies, one from New York, and the other from Kosovo, create a bilingual, physical theater work about the harboring of Jewish refugees by Albanians during World War II.

5. In addition to your arts background, you hold a CUNY doctorate in cognitive neuroscience and have been engaged in expanding the public’s understanding of science. Tell us more.

I got interested in cognitive neuroscience via my work with actors. Cog neuro looks at the physiological sources of our emotions and behaviors, how we pay attention, remember, problem solve, and use our senses. Those were the same processes that I thought about when I worked with actors. So, I became curious about what those scientists knew that I didn’t. A lot, as it turns out. For five years, I took classes, interacted with patients, and conducted experiments in a lab. My studies looked at visual processing, specifically what the brain contributes to the information that our eyes collect from our environment to produce the experience of seeing, which is, one could say, a creative act! 

Science either observes the world, or it tests hypotheses about how it works through measurement and manipulation. I love making process by which we better understand the role the brain takes in behavior—that’s the creative part of science. But data is not of value to society, it’s not even of value to other scientists, without a narrative. That story attaches it to what is known so far, explicates your methods so that others can reproduce them, and frames your results, to say why they are significant.

While earning my Ph.D., I started telling stories to the public to assist in how they understood science outcomes, since telling stories has always been my thing. People use data to make important decisions about health care, what car to buy, etc., so it’s important that we are informed data consumers. I made a TED-Ed video, created programs for Brain Awareness Week. In fact, I still program an annual Brain Awareness Week program at BPAC every March! We have done neuroscience and law, a program on artists who are neuroscientists, and on March 12th, we’re doing one on neuroscience and sports called “This is Your Brain on Baseball".

6. Bookeywookey is your blog. How would you characterize it? And, we have to know, what’s the backstory to the name?

I would characterize it as seriously hybrid, like me. I started it as a way to practice writing and to engage more with what I read (I read books continuously). The name? That’s from the musical form boogie woogie, which is characterized by an energetic percussive bass (left hand—I’m a lefty) with improvisatory riffs in the right hand—my process as a director involves a lot of improvisation.  Obviously, the name is a play on my obsession with all things bookish (or bookey). Bookeywookey has had more that a 250,000 visits! My favorite type of post would combine the range of my interests, like one I did using Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a way of explaining research on the hormone oxytocin.

7. When it’s time to grab a bite to eat, where do you like to go in Flatiron and what’s your go-to dish?

I’m a big fan of Almayass on 21st Street and their small plates. Their Moutabbal is super creamy and fresh with a great charred flavor. Their tea made with fresh mint leaves is a wonderful way to cap a meal.

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

The Center for Book Arts on 27th Street is such a singular exhibition space and, fitting to my obsession with all things bookey, it celebrates the book as an art object (the major reason that I prefer analogue books to digital readers is their distinctiveness as objects).

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

I have three: The historic Spanish/Portuguese Jewish cemetery on 21st Street near Sixth Avenue surprises me every time I walk by it! The East 24th street sky bridge between the two Credit Suisse buildings is one of just a few of these structures left in NYC. Doesn’t it kind of evoke Venice? I love all the original art on the walls at the Freehand Hotel’s bar —and it’s a great place to go for a drink before or after a BPAC show!

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District. 

Abundant. Classy. Old-World-New-York.

Photo Credit: Mathieu Asselin

Aug 9, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Emily Anghel, Community Manager, The Yard

Meet Emily Anghel, Community Manager at The Yard, a coworking space with 14 locations in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston, including two Flatiron locations. “I represent the brand on a daily basis and ensure the highest level of member satisfaction, starting with a smile on my face every morning,” says Anghel about her role at The Yard’s Flatiron South location located at 234 Fifth Avenue (between 27th and 28th Streets).

1. What is The Yard? And, please describe some of your responsibilities as Community Manager at The Yard’s Flatiron South location.

The Yard is a dynamic, shared office space community offering private offices, coworking, and innovative amenities for growing businesses. We have 14 locations in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Our beautifully designed spaces include everything you need to run your business–furnished offices, ultra-fast Wi-Fi, members-only lounges, 24/7 access, and more. 

Community Managers wear many hats. They act as the face of their location to potential members and a resource for all the businesses in our community. Every day is different and can include working on anything from maintaining building operations to creating community initiatives or developing new programming for members! Though most days are busy at Flatiron South, I always make time to get up and shake it out to the latest hits! By doing this, I create a well-balanced atmosphere that reminds members to unplug for a few minutes, focus on themselves, and be in the present. 

2. The Yard is part of a growing number of coworking spaces located in Flatiron. What distinguishes The Yard from others, and what are some of your notable amenities?

Our people and culture make The Yard stand out. From the moment you walk through The Yard’s doors, you’ll feel the most professional and personalized experience that is created by our team. We ensure that our focus is on your business by providing a sophisticated environment and access to a variety of resources. We prioritize getting to know your needs to make every workday the best it can be.

Our Art Program is a particularly unique amenity that we are proud to share with our members. Our locations work closely with thoughtfully selected curators and local galleries to decorate our 14 spaces with beautiful artwork. These masterpieces are celebrated during our art receptions every quarter and provide our members with a change in ambience and a twist on the typical networking event. 

3. What types of clients seek out space at the Flatiron South location?

Those who seek out Flatiron South are creative, driven, and want to be in a bustling neighborhood! Many of our members are in the marketing, technology, and wellness industries. 

4. You joined The Yard in 2016. What do you find most rewarding about working with The Yard? 

Meeting a new member and watching them grow within The Yard is what I find most rewarding. I have made dear friends from working here, and it’s incredible to see what they have accomplished since they joined our community. Seeing members meet one another and actually collaborating is where the magic really happens–it gets me every time!

Another truly rewarding experience was bringing our culture and brand to the City of Brotherly Love. I had the opportunity to relocate and help open our Philadelphia location in May 2017. I spent a year there building a new community while watching the space come to life! Now that I am back in New York City, I am training to take on the role of Culture Coordinator, which will ensure the highest level of community engagement and satisfaction between our staff and members. I’m taking on more HR-related responsibilities while the company grows, and it’s really exciting to see our successes as well!.

5. What advice would you offer to those interested in similar, community-facing work? 

Find a company whose culture allows you to explore different interests you have. Being a Community Manager allows you to develop your people, customer service, and business development skills while learning about so many different industries. Making sure you’re at a company that allows you to grow from within while expanding these skills is key. The Yard is helping me expand my personal and career interests by enabling me to train toward a role on our Culture team.

6. You’re originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. What do you miss about Oklahoma? And, what are your favorite parts of working in Flatiron?

I was born in Tulsa, but moved to Illinois quite soon thereafter. I would definitely consider myself a Midwesterner! I miss the familiarity of living in one place for most of my life and, of course, Chicago-style hot dogs. However, nothing beats being able to take my lunch to Madison Square Park, sit on a bench, and enjoy the energy of Flatiron and its people.

7. Where do you like to grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood, and what’s your go-to dish?

I enjoy dining at Hanjan, a traditional and gastronomic Korean restaurant. The ‘Bulgogi’ Beef Bibimbap is outstanding and my go-to every time!

8. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood?

A walk through Eataly is a must! It opens your eyes to a plethora of food and drink that you wouldn’t find just anywhere. Also, the Nutella Bar is a guilty pleasure of mine! 

9. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

My favorite building in the Flatiron District is the Appellate Courthouse on Madison Avenue and 25th Street. The marble building glimmers in the sunlight and these intricate statues stand tall on its facade. It’s always a breath of fresh air to see a historic building among modern architecture!

10. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Unique. Cultural. Electric. 

Photo Credit: The Yard

Jul 24, 2018

Flatiron Faces: Jorge Espinoza, Executive Chef, Scarpetta

Meet Jorge Espinoza, Executive Chef at Scarpetta, the critically-acclaimed restaurant located inside The James New York–NoMad at 88 Madison Avenue, between 28th and 29th Streets. “Italian food is very relaxed,” says the Querétaro, Mexico native about his passion for the cuisine. “It’s full of strong flavors, and only a few ingredients.”

1. You’re Executive Chef at NYC fave Scarpetta, and your parents’ cooking was the inspiration for your culinary career. What makes the profession so appealing to you? 

It's the freedom to create and express yourself in the dishes, and the satisfaction of when people enjoy my food. 

2. Tell us about your passion for Italian cuisine. Where did this interest originate? And, do you have similar interests in other regional food?

The first Italian restaurant that I worked at was L’Impero (in Tudor City) and it was there that I discovered Italian was the cuisine that I wanted to make. It’s very similar to the food I grew up seeing in my house. Italian food is very relaxed, full of strong flavors, and only has a few ingredients. 

3. You consider consistency, dedication, and passion as keys to good cooking. Can you explain further?

In terms of consistency, it is one of the most important aspects in the restaurant business. Without it, there would be no restaurants. Dedication to me is the symposium of success and experience, and the technique is improved every day. And passion is everything! It’s what gives you creativity and it’s what makes the challenges easier to overcome.

4. What do you like to do outside of the kitchen?

I am very passionate about vintage HiFi systems and listening to old vinyl records.

5. You were part of the Scarpetta launch team in the Meatpacking District a decade ago before the restaurant’s relocation to the Flatiron District earlier this year. Which Scarpetta dishes do you most recommend and why​?

The spaghetti pomodoro is a must-have because it's everything you want in a dish! It's simple, but very satisfying, and ideal for everyone. The braised octopus is full of color and flavor, and has many textures. Finally, the veal tenderloin is very delicate, but also a complete meal with refreshing flavors.

6. In addition to Scarpetta, where else do you like to grab a bite to eat in the Flatiron District and your favorite food there and why​?

The uni tostada at Cosme is my favorite. I love the combination of the bone marrow with smoked tomatoes and uni. It’s a very unique mix of flavors. The husk meringue is simple but packed with different textures, and the perfect amount of sweetness.

7. What do you consider a “must-see” or “must-do” here in the neighborhood and why?

Eataly! It really is an incredible place and they have great products. The feel of the open-format dining, and drinks, next to shopping represents that same communal dining experience we offer. There is something that just feels good about it. People are always happy when they’re around food!

8. What’s your favorite building or architectural element in the area and why?

As much as I love the Flatiron Building, I really do love the building that we’re in. It’s a Beaux-Arts building with so much history. There's hand-crafted Tiffany glass above the panels of our dining room ceiling, and there are so many secrets and layers here. It’s very New York!

9. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Innovative. Historic. Sophisticated.

Photo Credit: Sergio Spera