Casa la Femme’s Sarina Salvo on re-opening the sultry Middle Eastern hotspot in the West Village, why they are unique in New York, and partying with camels.
What do you do? I basically do everything at Casa la Femme. I don’t have an exact title because I’m really spread out through the whole restaurant. I’ve been with them for 12 years, so I basically can do everything from the event planning for everybody. I’m able to put through all of the parties. Anything people want. If someone decides that they want to have a camel, I would figure out how to have a camel in here, to staffing, to the flow of the restaurant. When we did downtown, I started as a manager there. Uptown when we did the boutique one, we went through the review process and I was just basically there on the floor, 100%, with the staff. In a nutshell, what do I do? I guess I represent them. I represent Casa la Femme. Other than the owners, I guess I am Casa la Femme, in a sense.
Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? Probably [Casa la Femme owners] Medhat Ibrahim and Anastasi Hairatidis. I wouldn’t stay with people if they didn’t inspire me and push me. Twelve years working with someone …
What is one positive trend that you see in the hospitality industry now? Now? Actual hospitality. Actually being caring with the customers. You know, with everything that’s happening with the whole economy and jobs, I think that people are actually giving what they need to give to the guests, giving them an experience, what they deserve. Now you have to convince people to go out. You have to. You work so hard for your money, and everyone used to go out anyways, and it was a given, so it was taken for granted — from everybody. Now you have to work to be able to get those.
On the other side of that, what’s one negative trend that you’ve been seeing? I mean, obviously, people losing their jobs and things like that. I know so many people in the business that are losing their jobs all throughout. I had interviews the other day, and I had like 140 people showing up. And that’s really scary. I feel bad. I had people who were general managers and managers begging to be servers. And they come from all the hottest restaurants. Anyone. You know, they have experience. So that’s a negative big time. Also, I know so many people in the Morgans Hotel group. You know, Royalton … people getting just laid off. It’s just horrible.
How will this affect Casa la Femme? Since we’re not open, I mean, I really can’t gauge it. But I would assume that we’ll see some negative things out of it. I used to get a tremendous amount of calls, just banging down the door when we’re open, everyone’s really excited, so I can’t gauge it at this point. But I’m assuming that its not going to be every single night. People are more conscious. We’ll see. I’ll approach it in a different way. I’m willing to be able to work with people, I understand that it’s going to be a budget thing and anything can be done to be able to accommodate people. That’s what I want to do. What’s one thing that people might not know about you? I guess maybe that I’m super private. Because people are so used to seeing me as chatty and floating around, but I’m definitely more reserved and quiet. Which is shocking. The total opposite from when people see me dancing on a table with a bottle of champagne.
What are some of your signature drinks going to be? We’ll have vodka-based ones, champagne-based ones. We did have a mango martini that was fresh juices and fresh mango nectar. Someone was just calling the other day about a French Kiss. That hasn’t been done in like nine years. I’m sure once we release them, they’ll be fab.
Who do you think Casa la Femme will be competing with for clientele in the West Village? No one. We won’t have to compete for anybody. We are totally unique. Any type of clientele is not going to be a problem. It’s just because we cross over into so many different types. We can have the models and that type because it’s sexy, it’s hot. We’re known for that. We’ll also have the people from the neighborhood. There’s a million Thai places, there’s a million Italian places, but there’s no Casa la Femme. If anyone has tried to do something like us, they haven’t succeeded on this level. There’s a reason that we’ve been around 15 years.
What’s the vibe at night? The music will switch up in the evening. There will be people sitting with bottles of champagne, relaxing and watching the belly-dancer. We’re going to stick to chill world music, like Hotel Costes type of loungey music. We’ll also have a Middle Eastern influence in the back. If we have a private party, we have a lot of friends, it could go into anything, like Rolling Stones late at night. It depends on what crew is in here. We have a pretty insane sound system. Anastasi is all about the music, so we’ve loaded the space up with lots of speakers and sound-proofed the place.