Favorite Hangs: One of my old friends from Yale Law School and I still meet weekly at Da Silvano. We also like other, more quaint restaurants. When we go out, we go to Cipriani, Giorgione, but, since Little Italy has been eaten by Chinatown, you have to look for places [further away].
Point of Origin: I was born in Italy — in Abruzzi on the Adriatic; that had a tremendous influence as I grew up. At four, I stole eggs from my grandmother and traded them for pastries. I started early. I grew up in my uncle’s restaurant in Orsogna; now my cousin has it.
Occupations: I knew I wanted to go to law school and went to Yale Law School before I worked for a big Wall Street Firm: Simpson, Thatcher, Barber — which then represented Lehman Brothers. I always leaned towards business, and wanted to do more than law, which I always thought was a little boring. I finally got into the hospitality, club, and restaurant business in the early 1990s … so my partner and I opened Conscience Point, which lasted for four years. There, I met David Page, the chef, and we opened up Home restaurant a year later here in Greenwich Village. We went from a country club to the Village, with organic food and wines principally from the East Coast. Then, we did Nemo together in South Beach, which was about 1994. There was no Portofino, no nothing — only Joe’s Stone Crab.
I was still in the real estate business, and in 1995, I had a foreclosure at 305 Spring Street, which housed — among other things — McGovern’s Bar, which had been there for 50 years on the corner that met Greenwich. When it ran into some difficulties, I took over the space and we put in a club — Sway. It took a while, but at the time it was tough in real estate and restaurants, so we didn’t open until late 1998. I did open up a new restaurant that had an Italian flavor … Risotteria on Bleecker and Morton. It’s still there, and now I can’t get a table! It started out as salads and risotto and reasonably priced Italian comfort food. Then, we got into gluten-free food, and certain people allergic to wheat loved our pizzas and cookies.
Any non-industry projects in the works? In philanthropy, we have two organizations we work with: ARTrageous, the foster children’s organization, which raises money through auctioning off art. I like to collect, so it was a win/win. I bought a Jeff Koons, who has contributed a lot of his work for the program. I also collaborate with the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless. Henry Buhl’s Sunflower Festival auctions off pieces of art to raise money for the organization. This year, we’ve made $450,000 so far. Those are our two favorite charities, and the next art auction is in May. For those who contribute, the money for the art goes to the foster children. Robin and I are also great supporters of yoga charities and, of course, we subscribe to ABT [American Ballet Theatre] and support the ballet.
Industry Icons: I would say Donald Trump, for a lot of reasons. For stock investments: Warren Buffett. And for restaurants, I would say Steve Hanson, because he not only did the chain restaurant, but also ventured into three-star Fiamma.
Projections: We’re going to have another Risotteria. We were going to do a Pleasure Club on Second Avenue and 46th Street, but have decided on a location closer to the river, in either Midtown or the West side. Also, because of the real estate situation, opportunities should be appearing soon.