BOTTINO in NYC Reaches a Milestone and Begins a New Era
History: At 21 years old, Bottino, if human, would finally be coming of age, but in restaurant years, 21 represents an even more dramatic milestone in NYC's uber-competitive dining scene. Owner Danny Emerman and his partner, Alessandro Prosperi, have been feeding the art world since 1987, when they opened Barocco, a no-nonsense, Tuscan restaurant in Tribeca. The restaurant was wildly successful, attracting an A-list crowd including Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Isabella Rossellini, Madonna, S.I. Newhouse, andIsaac Mizrahi. (Gael Greene was an early champion.) When the art galleries started to migrate to West Chelsea, gallerist Barbara Gladstone enticed the team to open a new restaurant there, and soon found them the perfect spot - a century old hardware store on Tenth Ave, with an improbably serene backyard. With the assistance of the German-born Brooklyn-based architect named Thomas Leeser, the space was stripped to the brick walls, painted gallery white, and fitted out with mid-century modern influences and recycled Eames chairs. The design was simple and clean, with no art on the walls, in deference to their artworld clientele. As the once grimy neighborhood blossomed into an international art center, Bottino soon became the local canteen. The location of innumerable gallery dinners for over 21 years, Bottino provides a well-lit, uncluttered space, where the crowd is the center of attention in the room, and conversation is audible at the table. A place where dealers, architects, artists, musicians and the fashion world feel at home. David Byrne, Cyndi Lauper, Sandra Bernhard, Laurie Anderson together with the late Lou Reed have been frequent frequenters.
Concept: Now after more than two decades, the Bottino team decided to renew the lease, refreshing the décor and bringing on a new executive chef/partner. The welcoming atmosphere of the restaurant and its appeal to the art world remain the same (along with many of the long-time staff), but Executive Chef/Partner Jamie Kenyon is infusing new life into the menu to make Bottino more of a chef-driven restaurant. Chef Kenyon has put his own twist on the comforting Italian food Bottino customers love, as well as enticing new and existing customers to take a fresh look at the cuisine, lingering over his creative and seasonal Italian menu. He hopes to bring his "nose-to-tail" ethos of not wasting any part of the animal, to the evolving menu in dishes including ingredients such as pork cheeks and oxtail. Other developments to look for include a chef's table and special events such as whole-animal dinners.
Chef: Executive Chef/Partner Jamie Kenyon, a native of Manchester, England, began his career at Daniel, and then went on to Bar Boulud. While the Michelin-starred French experience was amazing, Kenyon was most passionate about Italian food. After stalking the chef at Babbo for a job that didn't exist, he finally made enough of an impression to be considered for an opening at Manzo, at Eataly, where he was one of the first employees. There he delved further into the concept of nose to tail, learning what to do with every part of the animal. While he was there, he was offered a job to help open Gabe Stulman's Perla, which really took off within the first few months and was sold out every night for the two years he was there. Eventually, he moved on to Lupa as Executive Sous Chef. Initially, the food was a bit rustic for his sensibilities, but he grew to love the amazing large bowls of pasta, with massive flavors and other dishes. After a couple of years, he was asked to help open La Sirena from the ground up, as executive sous chef at the restaurant and executive chef of private dining. He was surprised and delighted when the restaurant earned a Michelin star with his menu after just six months. While he had a growing reputation, he felt he could do more and after two years moved on to corporate Chef de Cuisine for six restaurants at Eataly. The goal there was to make classic Italian dishes even better. But when Emerman, with whom he had done some consulting, offered him a partnership, Kenyon knew this was the right place for him to really put his stamp on a Manhattan restaurant that already had a massive following.
Food: The food is everything you would expect from Bottino-approachable, delicious, and Italian-with something to please every palate. Kenyon's experiences with both Italian peasant food and international fine dining are both clearly represented on the new menu, which will change with the seasons and includes daily specials. Starters such as Frittelle (bite-sized fritters), are kicked up a notch with zucchini and jalapeno, as well as smoked ricotta. Murray's Burrata, is a stunning plate of oozing fresh cheese paired with delicata squash, a puree of butternut squash, topped with pumpkin seeds. All fresh pastas are made in-house, including the new fall dish of Oxtail Garganelli, prepared with meat braised for 6.5 hours with a touch of cocoa powder to deepen the flavors, and lifted with bitter lettuces such as radicchio and endive over toothsome curls of pasta. For main courses, Kenyon puts a very different spin on the Baby Chicken from Bottino's past menu, preparing it in a tea brine - and served with spaghetti and butternut squashes and gaeta olives, and Pork Cheeks are braised in hard and non-alcoholic apple cider, with granny smith apples and an apple reduction. An Autumn Salad includes butter lettuces, pomegranate, honey crisp apples, honey vinaigrette, and stilton cheese. Available only at lunch, the Burger is a masterpiece on a crispy grilled Italian bread canvas, sandwiching a layer of bone marrow-cippolini agrodolce atop a dry-aged burger with creamed spinach below, paired with mind-bending "chips"-fried fingerlings coated in malt vinegar powder (an ode to Kenyon's British heritage). Another special lunch entrée is a filet of Branzino served with a pomegranate vinaigrette reduction, cauliflower puree and topped with pomegranate seeds. The menu will always be a work in progress, evolving with the seasons. Desserts will also continue to evolve under the direction of sous chefAnnabelle Sharahy, formerly of Eleven Madison Park, and will include delights such as gluten-free charred olive oil cake and carrot panna cotta.
Beverages: The boutique wine list, selected by Emerman, is 99% Italian organized by regions, offering up to ten whites and reds by the glass and a small collection of craft bottled beers. The cocktail program is overseen by General Manager Teddy Namauleg, formerly GM, beverage and creative director at The Norwood, who also has extensive experience introducing and developing new spirit brands. The cocktail list includes a changing seasonal roster of drinks such as the Grey Gardens Tea-infused martini, the Pompelmo of mezcal,Campari with a splash of Pellegrino grapefruit soda, and the Bottino Manhattan built with Maker's Mark and Carpano Antica Vermouth with a touch of Luxardo. The cocktail menu is firmly rooted in the classics with signature Negronis and Manhattan's and a growing offering of small-batch Italian amari.
Design: The classic mid-century modern design has been updated and refreshed but maintains its original aesthetic with the same Eames chairs and white brick walls. Divided into five sections: the front room where the bar is located, the back dining room, now with wooden accents and re-upholstered burnt orange banquettes, the spacious and beautifully landscaped garden dining area, which is covered year-round and enclosed for cooler weather, a private enclosed East Garden dining room, and the large interior private Pool Room (the name pays homage to the Four Seasons Restaurant), where innumerable artists have been feted for 21 years and counting.
Bottino is located at 246 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY, www.bottinonyc.com, (212) 206-6766, and is open for lunch Tues-Sat noon-3:30 pm; bar menu Tues-Sat 3:30-5:30 pm; dinner Mon-Sat 6-10pm ; Sun 5:30-9:30 pm. Private dining room available by request.
Courtesy of Bottino