Hi Mr. Capsis,
Hope you are having a lovely holiday weekend.
As I am reading the review by Ms. Caroline Benveniste of Ristorante Rafele, I would like to point out a few things that are untrue:
1. 900 Degrees, the pizza restaurant that folded prior to the opening of Ristorante Rafele, was not a “dump” prior to Raffaele moving in. I ate there about every other day before it closed. The pizza was absolutely delicious as were the meatballs, etc.
2. The wood-burning oven was already at the restaurant thanks to the owners of 900 Degrees. They did make wood-burning pizza from scratch. So did Raffaele just decorate the existing oven?
3. The food is disgusting!!! If you know what real Italian food tastes like, then you would know that this place isn’t authentic. It’s salty and you wouldn’t even want to bring a large party there to dine as you do when friends visit.
4. This place is rarely full unless it’s tourist season (many locals do not rave about the restaurant). We’d rather go to Po on Cornelia which is authentic Italian.
5. Many neighboring restaurants do not make it due to the rising rents, NOT because of lack of business. Neighboring businesses like Agave have been open for years, as well as Mr. Dennehy’s, Spunto, Gallo Nero (which moved locations), Jekyll and Hyde, etc.
If this is a neighborhood paper, please understand that many of us do actually live here for longer than two years and we support the local businesses as well as remember the past businesses.
Now if I am wrong about the oven, I apologize. However, the rest is true. I can’t just sit there reading an article that is false or full of PR without saying something.
Warm Regards, Anonymous
Thank you for taking the time to write a letter about my Rafele article. As a disclaimer, I have no personal affiliation with the restaurant, and WestView does not receive any money from them for advertising or anything else. You can be confident that there are no conflict of interest issues involved here.
To address your comments about the oven: When I interviewed Raffaele, one of my first questions to him was whether he was able to reuse the oven from the pizzeria. He informed me that he was not, and that he had built it himself with materials from Naples. After your letter, I contacted him again just to confirm, and he replied “The brick oven currently in my restaurant and in question was built brick by brick with my own two hands. I may even have some of the scars on my knuckles to prove it and, if I don’t, I do have the original purchase order/receipts from Naples, (place of origin).”
I regret that you had the impression that I was denigrating the pizza restaurant, 900 Degrees. In fact, I never went there and did not even know it existed because it closed so quickly. I re-read my article, and nowhere did I characterize it as a “dump.” You called the food at Rafele “disgusting.” That is obviously a matter of taste (de gustibus and all that), but if you do check the Yelp reviews for Rafele, you will see that it has a 4.5 star rating with 287 reviews. While I do not always trust Yelp, this is a pretty high rating and it is unlikely that with such a large number of reviews, all the reviewers were friends of the chef. Perhaps the restaurant is popular with tourists, but many Villagers frequent it as well. I first learned of Rafele when I was on the GVSHP Village Awards Committee. We received four separate nominations for Rafele (more than for most of the other nominees) from Villagers and, after a lengthy discussion by the committee made up of longtime Village residents, many of whom were familiar with the restaurant, Rafele made it to the second round, one of only 35 out of an original 150 nominations. It was while doing my due diligence on the nomination that I first spoke with Raffaele and learned more about his charitable works.
You also take exception to my comment that restaurants on that stretch of 7th Avenue are at risk because of lack of foot traffic. You state that they are at risk because of rising rents. Probably it is a combination of the two. When Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter had just opened, I talked to the owner and he said was tempted to stand at the corner of Bleecker and 7th Avenue and encourage people to walk south as he felt that that area did not have many pedestrians. And, while you give examples of other restaurants that are still around, there are also examples of restaurants that have closed such as Mas (La Grillade) and later Almanac in the same space. Finally, while I did greatly enjoy most of what I ate at the restaurant, my article was mostly about Raffaele’s extracurricular charitable activities, something I don’t believe anyone could argue about.