What are some favorite memories of growing up in your family’s Brooklyn butcher shop and restaurants?
I loved watching my father toil over pots of water to make the best handmade pastas using the freshest ingredients that smelled delicious—we always felt as though we ate like kings. He used to let me help him hold the charcuterie machine as thin slices of meat with fatty veins running through them piled up. I learned that it’s a hands-on business between the vendors and customers; listening to my father greet each customer that walked in was a great way to learn the art of making every diner feel special.
You were a Wall Street guy before becoming a restaurateur. Why the change?
Wall Street is an incredibly fast-paced, high-risk business—so is the restaurant world. I thought I would take a turn at it more as a pet passion project then anything else. I bring the Wall Street mentality of hard work— that is also smart work—to all of my restaurants. Also, I have a head for numbers and realized early on that if the restaurant isn’t financially functional, you will fail no matter how good the food and how pretty the crowd. I end every night reviewing numbers and start every day working on them.
You have the Lion, Crown, and Windsor, all in New York. What do your restaurants offer guests?
We simply do what we love to do. We have tried to find spaces that are inherently rich in history so that our places feel warm and inviting. We hope guests feel at home with us—with our food, our service, and our spaces.
Bill’s [shown below] is your newest concept. Tell us about it.
Bill’s was our first step into Midtown [in New York] and into lunch. We found a decrepit space with quite a history, and wanted to breathe life back into it. We uncovered all the bones and other secrets of the building and tried to expose them. We also wanted to cater to the business area we are in, ranging from financial institutions to fashion houses.
What’s next for you?
We just opened an American bistro in London, named Red House for the beautiful brick building it’s housed in. Now we working to open a European café in the heart of the gallery district in Chelsea [New York]. The space has a long bar serving great coffee and drinks all day with cozy banquettes; it’s industrial yet warm and the façade will open up in the summer to outdoor seating along the river.