By Karen Rempel
The restaurant lifespan in New York has shriveled like a dried chanterelle. NY Eater estimates that 1,000 restaurants closed between March and November. The Office of the New York State Comptroller recently reported that New York City’s restaurant industry had 23,650 establishments in 2019, and projected that one-third to one-half of these restaurants and bars may close permanently. This means 8,000 to 12,000 restaurants and bars could shutter. Confirming these grim statistics, in September the New York State Restaurant Association released the findings from its latest survey of more than 1,000 restaurateurs across the state. Nearly 64% of restaurant owners said they are likely or somewhat likely to close by the end of this year unless they receive financial relief. That’s more than 15,000 restaurants dying on the vine.
It takes a fierce will to adapt, innovate, and transform a business model to keep plates on the table. Osteria 57 on West 10th Street is a primo example of this ferocious spirit. Not only have owner Emanuele Nigro and partner and chef Riccardo Orfino built one of the most successful and appealing outdoor dining spaces in the city, they have also flung out their protective tablecloth to cover the struggling Village icon Gradisca on West 13th Street. Together, in a mutually beneficial stroke of brilliant business-model innovation, the two restaurants have launched Alice, a place to go when you’re feeling a little lost. Who isn’t at times like these?
After 20 celebrity-studded years, Gradisca’s owner, Massimo Galeano, had run out of steam to keep the old-school Italian restaurant going. But then he met Emanuele and crew, and realized he wants to keep one foot here in the business in America, while also having time to visit his loved ones in Italy. He said, “I met these guys, they are younger, I really love the team, they are amazing together. This is what the restaurant needs, with these guys I refresh the entire ambience. They change the name, interior, the menu, now I think we have a good product, good music, they are fun!”
The new lovechild restaurant, Alice, imbues the wonderland warren of classic New York rooms at 126 West 13th Street with a moody, sexy vibe. With comfort on the menu, Alice offers your favorite hand-crafted pastas, paired with the luxury of a unique Italian lobster bar. And be sure to say hello to Wael, their charismatic Lebanese mixologist.
As an homage to Massimo’s high-rolling pasta mama, the menu includes Riccardo’s own take on Mama Caterina’s ravioli, as well as his fresh pasta al forno, to bring traditional Italian home cooking to the lost-in-wonderland experience. “Dining out is the only social experience we have left for the winter of 2020,” said Emanuele. “So we want to do it right—with a touch of luxury.” The lobster menu includes rich lobster bisque, lobster risotto, and lobster and truffle pasta with truffles shaved tableside.
Manager Alberto Manuli reflects on the impetus for the fairytale wedding of two venerable Italian families. “We’re doing something together, keeping the tradition of this old historic restaurant with a newer vibe, turning it around. We are a group of friends who have never given up in these harsh times.”
Alice, 126 West 13th Street. Reservations: 212-691-4886 or on Resy. Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 5-10 PM.
Karen Rempel has been contributing to WestView News since 2017. She is a photojournalist, technical writer, model, and artist. Her artwork was recently on exhibit at the Revelation Gallery in the West Village and at the Salmagundi Club. Visit her blog at loveaffair.nyc and her YouTube channel.