Shut Up NIMBYS—Destefano’s, Gentrification & Hustlers

The irony wasn’t lost on this old sailor: Last night, I was treated to a serious steak at a decidedly non-hipster haunt near my new home in Williamsburg. Destafano’s satisfied all my carnivorous urges and also introduced me to some of the locals in my new hood, people that don’t have a used dresser packed with plaid shirts back home. Williamsburg, with its hipster hangs, massive flowering parks, and quaint shops, is grounded in the old-school Italian and Polish populations who’ve been here forever, and, thankfully, who readily accept their newish quirky residents.

It’s a neighborhood much like the one I just left, the super-gentrified tourist-trap North Little Italy, which was renamed with a real estate agent’s moniker, Nolita. It was meant to assure newcomers that this wasn’t the Little Italy of gangster lore, but a new chic hood dominated by actors, artists, chic restaurants, and boutiques. When I got to Nolita 7 or 8 years ago, it was all that—quiet and trendy. I would have a breakfast at Gitane or Habana while saying hello to a couple dozen neighbors. It was too good to be true — and it was too good to last. The fabulousness attracted the tourists and yuppies. They came in hordes. The local shops and cafés changed to meet their needs. Prices on everything, including rents, skyrocketed.

A few years ago it became impossible for a local to visit these haunts, with hour-long waits not uncommon. Sure, the other day I saw a very tired and wet Gabriel Byrne leaving his place to catch a bite. Eight years ago I would have stopped and chatted with my neighbor. Nowadays, it’s become like the rest of Manhattan, a place where you don’t know those who live nearby. The new construction and high rents have diminished the diversity and friendliness. Gentrification has taken the neighbor out of the hood.

Last night my new friends at Destafano’s talked about Noho. They lived there when it was little Italy or The Village. They, too, have migrated to Williamsburg for much of the same reasons as I did. While I followed the hipster migration, they found a small enclave that still has the values they cherish. The old neighborhood had lost its charm. Williamsburg still had it. Destafano’s is all that: broccoli rabe and panacotta to die for, and families and conversations that made a stranger feel at home. We talked of Ray—the actual real Original Ray’s Pizza, who passed just a couple of years ago, and Vinny Vela, who’s also out here. We talked about this guy, and that one, and of Little Charlie’s Clam House, which is now Travertine. Ironically I’m going to Travertine tonight. Travertine is a great place that made me forget it was Little Charlie’s. Destafano’s was so good and so friendly that it made me forget my Nolita years.

Tonight’s party at Travertine centers around a beautiful young actress’s birthday. I’ve known Evy Bjorn since she was around 4 years old. Her dad, an actor as well, managed at Café American, which is where Nobu downtown is. It was there I did fun, experimental fashion shows that started in the kitchen, went into the aisles, passing the large windows of the restaurant, wended out the front door to the street where large crowds gathered, and then flowed back through the service door for a change. Evy was sometimes running around being cute. We met up years later at clubs around town when she was old enough to vote. We remain great friends. Her story is one of survival while she tries to make it big. I gave her her first gig working with New York and now Vegas legend, Mike Diamond. She was a bottle host at a thankfully forgotten joint called Madison. She moved on to work with Travertine force Ruben Rivera, who was running the door at Mansion at the time. Then it became M2 and she was still there. She has bartended and waitron’ed at dozens of joints. If she is working 4 days a week, she looks for more shifts. Shifts pay for her career. She is now bartending at Upstairs. Her day job has had her stunt driving in Steve Carrell’s flick Dan in Real Life. She’s always studying, auditioning and collaborating. Her night jobs afford her the flexibility. Without a vibrant night scene, and the jobs it creates, we’d have far less talent struggling to make it here. That’s often lost on the NIMBY’s who fail to respect that nightlife brings needed jobs to this job-starved city. If you ask her what she’s up to she spouts “auditioning a ton, some commercial modeling,trying to get funding for a Franc Reyes pilot, and another pilot by Zach Dunham, finishing up and writing my own pilot, and looking to put together my first gallery show of some of my pieces by the end of the summer. Taking my career to the next level. Oh ,and in an Improv Group at The PIT.”

At a community board meeting the other night, yokel locals held up signs and shouted at respectable operators vying for board approval for their projects. Operators who would provide work so that our communities are full of Evy Bjorn’s doing their thing and paying their way. The locals just shout and spew vile, harass, and lie. The biggest lie being that they actually represent the community. I told someone with some clout that the only way to end their power is to hold them accountable individually in court. Sue individual ”neighbors” and board members for libel if they libel, when they libel. Hold them accountable for the threats and lies, which are so much a part of their toolbox. Tonight I’ll head to Travertine to celebrate Evy and a thousand others who still believe if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. In the city that never sleeps, Evy and her ilk sleep less than most.

Interpol Takes Us to Their Favorite Downtown Haunts

Interpol lead singer and guitarist Paul Banks sits in a windowless lounge in the Soho headquarters of Matador Records, his face obscured by aviator sunglasses and the brim of a black fedora. He’s joined by his bandmates, guitarist Daniel Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino, each dressed in somber tones that, were it not for their impeccable tailoring, would make them indistinguishable from the trendy young New Yorkers sitting around the office.

“It’s erotic and creepy,” says Banks of the music video for “Lights,” a haunting track off Interpol’s new self-titled album, out this month. The video interpretation of their already pitch-black song was directed by Charlie White, who also helmed the video for their 2005 song “Evil,” which followed a puppet on his way to the hospital a er a brutal car accident. Not surprisingly, the video for “Lights” is equally twisted, featuring a pair of attractive Asian “courtesans” preparing a “doe” for pheromone-harvesting, a ritual that occurs, as the title card helpfully informs, “deep within the inner chambers of the three-horned rhinoceros beetle.”

“Charlie is obsessed with sex and death. He’s a man after my own heart,” says Banks, who recently split from his longtime girlfriend, supermodel Helena Christensen. The video is a far cry from most of the pop frippery out there—Katy Perry and her whipped cream breasts; Lady Gaga and her firework breasts—but then, so is Interpol.

Over the course of eight years and four albums, fans have watched the band evolve from post-punk revivalists to indie rock innovators, defining and re-defining their sound while sharing the stage with some of the world’s mightiest rock legends. They headlined a North American tour this past summer, and will support U2 on a spate of European gigs this month and next. Still, their latest album marks a turning point for a group that’s often compared to Manchester rock pioneers Joy Division. “We wanted to do something different from what we had done before,” says Daniel Kessler, which meant building instrumentation and bringing keyboards and melodies to the forefront.

Interpol has been based in New York since 1997, when the band first began performing together at downtown clubs like Luna Lounge. And while they could probably do what they do anywhere in the world at this point, their formative years in the city helped define them as a band. “With New York, a lot of people are affected by their first year or so,” Kessler says. “Either they run screaming and crying, or they succeed in what they’re trying to do. I could go to Uruguay and still feel the essence of New York and be inspired by the time I spent here. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.”

Cienfuegos: “This is where I come to pull chicks. That’s really the main reason. And, yeah, there are good Cuban sandwiches downstairs. Upstairs, they serve exotic punches in big carafes with ladles and some of the better cocktails in the city. They have this amazing drink called Rosa Verde with watermelon and arugula. The owner [Ravi DeRossi] also runs Death & Co., which is one of the best cocktail bars in the city, along with The Bourgeois Pig, 124 Rabbit Club, and a Mexican place up the block called Mayahuel, so he’s got a little empire going on.” —Paul Banks

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Anfora: “I met [owner Joe Campanale] at a dinner party. We became friends and he’s since taught me a lot about wine. He also owns the restaurant next door, dell’anima, and L’Artusi, just a few blocks away. It feels like you’re doing something a little swanky at this wine bar, but without the pretension. You could come in wearing a pair of jeans and still have a glass of $80 Barolo. It brings this level of sophistication down to earth. I’m into white wine, so I always tell Joe ‘dry but fruity.’ They serve sandwiches, cheese plates, and stuff from very specific regions of Italy—a lot of salamis and cured meats. The prosciutto and the beef bresaola are my favorites.” —Sam Fogarino

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Rebel Rebel Records: “This is the place to go for vinyl. The owner and I have like-minded tastes. It was a shame when we lost Virgin Records in Union Square, but I would care more if we lost this one. Good record stores are a dying breed, and I think this one is the real deal.” —Paul Banks

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Matt Umanov Guitars: “I bought my first guitar, a Guild, here in 1992. I thought it was awesome at the time. The last thing I got here was a 12-string Gibson. I like the dudes who run this place.” —Paul Banks

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Cafe Gitane: “I’ve been coming here for 15 years. It’s always filled with people, but I can still find peace of mind. They have a great salad with beets, apples, and endive, and an avocado on toast that’s very tasty, too. The place is tiny, but it works—plus, it’s a nice spot to sit outdoors and catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a good rendezvous spot.” —Daniel Kessler

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Lord Willy’s: “I keep coming back because of the personalities who work here, and I love the shirts. They’re done with classic English tailoring. The colors are always playful, almost post-dandyish. They’re from an era that’s not around anymore. The shirts fit so well that I don’t have to wear them with a tie to make them look nice. You can dress them up as much or as little as you want.” —Paul Banks

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Freemans Sporting Club: “There’s an adjacent restaurant, Freemans, which I went to before I knew about this place. As we were leaving, I walked out onto Rivington Street, and I was like, What’s this? I walked in, and I thought, is is probably the coolest clothing store I’ve ever been in. And there’s a barbershop, too? I’ve known Shorty, my barber, for the better part of 12 years, and I turn around and he’s cutting hair here! We hadn’t seen each other in a while because I had been touring, but that brought me back here. I like the whole concept of the men’s club. Hemingway would have shopped here. I got this brown leather belt, this green shirt, and a couple of winter pieces. This stuff is going to endure for decades. I’ll come here when I’m 70 years old and it will feel just as natural as it does now. —Sam Fogarino

Photography by Brooke Nipar

Industry Insiders: Amber Doyle, Nature vs. Nurture

To walk into Against Nature Atelier, a boutique on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is to travel back to the gaslit, wunderkammer-strewn Victorian era. It’s the kind of place a dandy might go for a fitting, though co-founder Amber Doyle says most customers tend to be “lawyers and Wall Street types, but also a lot of young people, musicians, and artists.” Doyle—along with fellow tailor Jake Mueser, accessories designer Ryan Matthew, and custom denim specialist Simon Jacobs—crafts one-off suits starting at $3,200 a pop. “We do suits in six to eight weeks, and in about three to, four fittings,” Doyle says. “The rule is that you can’t leave until it fits perfectly.”

On the backstory: Jake and I design all the shoes and clothing together. We met through friends and started on working on pieces together and it just snowballed. We did a couple suits for friends who happened to be in bands. It started to get a lot of recognition. We had our first pop-up shop in the East Village which is where Ryan comes into play. Ryan does all the accessories and jewelry for the store. We stayed at that location for a while, but found it was too small for what we were trying to do. So, we found the location where we are now at 159 Chrystie Street, and we thought it would be great to do not only custom suits, custom accessories, but also custom jeans. That’s where Simon comes about.

On the group coming together: Jake and I met through friends and also while I was finishing my degree at FIT. Jake and Ryan have known each other through friends and we’ve all known Simon for a while. We’re just four creative, driven people, all coming together.

On the design aesthetic: The store itself is built on the fact that we offer everything bespoke. Not only bespoke clothing – whether suits, shorts, vests, trousers, but also custom offerings – accessories, belts, rings, cuff links that can be adjusted right on the spot. So, you can buy something from the store or Ryan can make basically anything for you. Nowhere in New York do I know that there is bespoke denim. That makes us very unique. When it comes to clothing, Jake and I tend to go for a very fitted silhouette. A little bit more towards the English cut. It’s almost like a 1960’s dandy. Its fun, very fitted, still very classic, but modern.

On classic dressing coming into style again: They’re all jumping on our style, man! I think after such a long slew of having the trend be drapey and cut-up things falling apart, to see and to be part of that well-dressed, put-together scene where you still look well-dressed, put-together, sharp and edgy, but you’re wearing something very nice but to the point of timeless instead of trendy.

On making custom suits: We do them in about six to eight weeks and that’s with three to four fittings. The rule is, you can’t leave until it fits perfectly. So, we make sure everything’s just right and you’re buying just right. They start at $3,200. Then, we also offer suits in the store that are off the rack, but will be adjusted for you and those begin at $2,700.

On the clientele: It’s so hard to pinpoint, because we’ve made pieces for such a different array of people. We’ve done lawyers and Wall Street types and business men. We’ve had a lot of wedding suits. We’ve done tuxedoes. We’ve done dinner jackets. We’ve made a tail coat for an opera director. Then, also we get a lot of young people who are coming in and designing suits for us who are musicians or artists. We’ve done some for restaurateurs. We’ve done almost everything. Then, we also have the women clients who are in that same range of categories. So, it’s really hard for us to pinpoint one single person because when it’s custom, we like to have fun and play with the idea that this is for you. This is what your needs are.

Challenging requests: The opera coat was a tricky thing that we’re still finishing up the final touches on. For each client, it’s different because they all want something very specific. Every person is a very fun challenge.

Favorite designers: We’re all really big fans of Tom Ford. I think his work is beautiful. I love what Prada is doing for menswear. I love what Gucci is doing for menswear. Paul Smith is great

Go-to’s: I like Café Gitane and the Jane Hotel. I would say they’re both great places. And I love the bar at the Hudson Hotel.

Karen Elson, ‘The Ghost’ Who Rocks

Not that you would ever have occasion to look it up, but there are no direct flights from Manchester to Nashville, which might explain why it took model Karen Elson nearly a decade to trek from her birthplace to Music City, where she now lives with her rock-star husband, Jack White, and their two children. But the journey—the grit of her hometown and the country flavor of her adopted one—all make themselves felt on her raspy, lo-fi debut album, next month’s The Ghost Who Walks. “In fashion,” Elson says from inside midtown Manhattan’s Ace Hotel, “I can’t ever truly be myself. What music brought out in me is gigantic. The first time I played Jack one of my songs, I just cried.”

In casual conversation, Elson lights up when talking about Nick Cave, ’80s pop group This Mortal Coil and the surrealism of 1930s Paris, an endearing surprise coming from the onetime face of Yves Saint Laurent, Prada and Chanel. Similarly, The Ghost Who Walks plunges right into the heady stuff, opening with the sinister title track (it’s also the nickname given to her by bullies when she was a child), a graphic murder ballad strongly reminiscent of Cave’s “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” Then there is “Last Laugh,” a love letter to her two children—framed within the context of the apocalypse. From the haunting “The Birds They Circle” to the down-and-out desperation of “Mouths to Feed,” Elson takes listeners through a litany of sorrows, cruelties and savage injustices. Of all this despair, she shakes her head and says, “We’re all such fools, human beings.”

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Elson is well aware of the stigma associated with her professional detour and fully expects that indie nerds may receive her album with disdain. (Though perhaps they aren’t aware of her other outfit, The Citizens Band, a subversive theater troupe that took on Wall Street profligacy last October with the musical The Debt Rattle.) That White, the founder of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, whom Elson met in 2005 on the set of the music video for the Stripes’ “Blue Orchid,” produced her album won’t do much to endear her to this crowd. But—nepotism be damned—it does give the record a convincing, hardscrabble sound.

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Also adding to the record’s authenticity is Nashville—a city that, like Manchester, she reckons “can never be fully explained except through music”—where she has lived for the past five years. “If I had written these songs in New York, they probably would have been much more cynical,” she says. “In New York, people are motivated by success and money. It’s not about being good at what you do. It’s about being good at hustling. Instead, this is a very honest record.”

Top Image: Robe by Agent Provocateur, Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo. Second Image: Dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo.Third Image: T-shirt by Alternative Apparel, Jeans by Levi’s. Sittings Editor: Christopher Campbell, Hair: Cali Devaney, Makeup: Jami Harris, Photography By Mark Squires Location: Third Man Records, Nashville, TN.

KAREN LIKES: Cafe Gitane.

Where Celebs Go

1. Naomi Campbell @ Interview magazine’s 40th anniversary party: I don’t know. I don’t really live here so much anymore. In London? I don’t live in London. I live in Russia. Favorite restaurant in Russia? Pushkin’s. 2. Chloe Sevigny @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: Depends on what I’m in the mood for. I like Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar in the East Village. I like Balthazar for oysters. I love Raoul’s. 3. Peter Brant @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: I would probably say the Four Seasons. I like that restaurant, but I have a lot of favorites. That’s, usually, a favorite of mine. There’s a lot of great things to eat there.

4. Linda Nyvltova @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: It’s going to be more restaurants. The pizza place, Vezzo, on 31st and Lexington. I love it. We go there all the time.

5. Brian Ermanski @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: Rose Bar. And I don’t really go out that much anymore. I love sitting outside Balthazar. And I don’t drink, so I don’t really like going out to drink a lot. I work a lot.

6. Sam Shipley @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary part: I really like Nancy Whiskey. That’s on the corner of 6th Avenue and Walker. We also love Lucky Strike. We also love Frank’s on 2nd Avenue and E. 6th Street.

7. Genevieve Jones @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: I like Café Select. I, usually, go anywhere I can walk downtown, so, like, Balthazar and coffee at Saturday Surf. I like N after work. What else? La Esquina.

8. Jessica Stam @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: Really, I just hang out at restaurants close to my house. I like to go to the new restaurant at the Jane Hotel [Café Gitane]. That’s really pretty because it overlooks the ocean. I like to go to Tompkins Square Park. The park itself? Yes.

9. Edward Droste @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: My apartment! I love Marlow & Sons. It’s a restaurant in Brooklyn. It’s one of my favorite places. I have friends that work there. I eat there all the time. And I love Mary’s Fish Camp restaurant in the West Village for seafood. But I don’t know anything about clubs, so … I’m good at food.

10. Mary-Kate Olsen @ Interview‘s 40th anniversary party: I’m not doing interviews tonight.

11. Pastor Joel Osteen @ Hezekiah Walker Presents: A Night of Hope and Prayer for Haiti: I ate at Rockefeller Center today, [near] the ice skating rink. In Houston, Texas, there’s a little Italian place that I love to eat at, not too far from my house. I don’t even know the official name of it. I like all kinds of different food.

12. Al Sharpton @ A Night of Hope and Prayer for Haiti: I have several favorite restaurants. I love, of course, Sylvia’s, but I also like to come downtown sometimes to Nello’s. I’m a salad eater now. I don’t eat meat anymore, so just salad and maybe good fish.

13. Congressman Eliot Engel @ AIPAC Northeast Regional Dinner: In the Bronx, when I was growing up, there were many, many, old, wonderful kosher delis, and they really all have disappeared, except for one in Riverdale, called Liebman’s, on W. 235th Street and Johnson Avenue. It’s an old-time New York kosher deli, and no matter where I’ve been around the United States – in Cleveland, in Pittsburgh, in Indianapolis, in Detroit – people say to me, ‘ Oh, you gotta go to this deli. It’s a real, authentic, Jewish-style deli.’ And I go there, and I always think, ‘Oh, my God, it’s so inferior to what we have in New York.!’ So that’s where I like to go.

14. Senator Chuck Schumer @ AIPAC Northeast Regional Dinner: My favorite places are in Brooklyn, and you’ll think this is funny, but Nathan’s is still one of my favorite restaurants for hot dogs and french fries. And go to the original Nathan’s in Coney Island — they taste better! But if you go to Fifth Avenue, and you go to Smith Street, you will have great, great restaurants. And we eat at a lot of them. Al Di La, we love very much. How do I pick my favorite? Best slice of pizza in Brooklyn is Roma Pizza on Seventh Avenue; I’ll tell you that. Here’s what I recommend: Po on Smith Street. It is just great!

15. Chris Blackwell @ Strawberry Hill, Jamaica: As I spend most of my time in Jamaica, when I go to New York, I love to check out wherever anybody is saying is a new place or is a great place. So, I’m not really a creature of habit, in going back to one restaurant, all the time. And in Jamaica? If you like the mountains, here is the best place, Strawberry Hill. If you like the sea and the beaches, there are three or four different places that are really good. There’s Port Antonio; and there’s a place called Frenchmen’s Cove, which is just stunningly beautiful. You can’t stay there; you can just visit and swim there. I have a property called Goldeneye, which is in Oracabessa. And then there’s a really nice hotel in Ocho Rios called Jamaica Inn. And Montego Bay is the other main area, and they have a couple of great hotels. One is Half Moon, and the other is Round Hill. And then there’s the South Coast, which has got a whole different feel. It’s, like as if you’ve gone to a different country. There’s a great place there called Jake’s. And Jake’s is, actually, a very casual type hotel, in a whole village area.

16. Daljit Dhaliwal @ History Makers conference: Right now I haven’t been doing an awful lot of entertaining, going out and being sociable. I just bought a new apartment and I’m learning how to use tools. I know how to use a screwdriver and I’m contemplating the electric drill. [There’s] some spackling, sanding and painting. I like to hang out in my neighborhood. Cafe Julienne, a bistro, serves wonderful French fare, nice hamburgers, great pate, nice cheeses, and good wine. In London, I love Notting Hill, Portabella Market — a fabulous place to hang out Saturday or any day of the week. Westborne Park, Grove and Road: West End. London is great for shopping.

NYC Openings: Cafe Gitane, La Lucha, East Side Social Club

Cafe Gitane (West Village) – Gitane recreates its leisure-class café scene for the west side. ● La Lucha (East Village) – Mexican street food with a wrestling theme hits the E.V. Split the difference between Zaragoza and Mercadito. ● East Side Social Club (Midtown East) – Joltin’ Joe overlooks loving homage to Little Italy social clubs of yore.

New York Itinerary: Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars

Actor-musician Jared Leto and his certified-platinum band 30 Seconds to Mars have been keeping busy, readying their third album, This is War, for release on December 8th. But not so busy they can’t play with Manhattan’s punks and paparazzi. It’s all in a day’s work for the hardcore heartthrob. (Also check out our behind-the-scenes report.)

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“You’re kidding me,” says Jared Leto, grabbing his forehead at the terrible news: New York’s Union Square—where, for many locals, downtown begins—will be the proud new owner of a T.G.I. Friday’s. “I remember when Babies ‘R’ Us first arrived in the neighborhood,” he says. “On one hand, it was like, This is the end. On the other, it was nice to see people weren’t afraid to do business here.” Fans who know and love Leto from his days as Jordan Catalano on television’s My So-Called Life might be similarly ambivalent about the actor’s transformation into a mascara-wearing rocker. But it’s nice to see he’s doing business, too, especially when it momentarily looked like his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, might not get the chance. Comprised of Leto, his brother Shannon (the band’s drummer) and Tomo Miličević (lead guitar), 30 Seconds almost fell apart after Virgin Records sued them for $30M for allegedly refusing to honor their three-album contract. “It was hell,” he says, “But it’s over. This Is War is kind of like a celebration.”

Café Gitane 242 Mott Street It’s just that kind of place, you know, the kind where everyone goes, the kind where you run into your friends. Like we just did. [Leto bumped into photographer Terry Richardson, pictured below, and musician Moby sitting outside.] It’s a neighborhood place that has been here for a while and still feels like a neighborhood place. That’s not always the case in New York. I think places that last a long time are here for a reason.

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Trash and Vaudeville 4 St. Mark’s Place Trash and Vaudeville was making and selling those skinny black jeans that are everywhere now long before they were popular. The great news is that at this place, they’re 60 bucks. It’s a local New York institution, but I’m surprised this place has held on as long as it has. The owner stuck it out, and he’s still here, kicking ass.

San Loco 111 Stanton Street San Loco is New York’s only real taco place. I was living here off and on for quite some time, a long, long time ago, in 1991. [My brother] Shannon lived here in 1993, in Alphabet City. I used to come here at all hours. It’s one of my favorite places: easy, cheap and good. It can stand up to the Mexican food in L.A.

Balthazar 80 Spring Street Balthazar feels like an authentic French restaurant. It’s not like Café Gitane, when you feel like you’re in New York. It more or less takes you there. Their food is so consistent and solid. I’ve been coming here for years. I go in the off-hours—it’s open all the time, and it’s even more beautiful when it empties out, especially during the day, when fewer people are here.

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Café Habana 17 Prince Street I’ve been trying to get Shannon to go here for so long. I’ve been telling him forever that they need to open one in L.A. Now they’re opening two in L.A. Habana has a special charm to it. You’re crammed in there with a ton of other people—models, locals and tourists. It’s crowded, but there’s just a good energy, you know? I often go to the takeout counter next door when it’s too crowded. I’ve got to get some plantains.

For more of Jared’s favorite spots, check out the BlackBook Guides on your iPhone.

Photography by Adam Fedderly. Styling by Bryan Levandowski. Grooming by Kumi Craig @ Exclusive Artists. Leto’s own T-shirt, pants and jacket. Cardigan by Gucci.

New York City Itinerary: Hard Times with Paul Iacono

“Who would have thought that a show about a guy with a big dick would become such a hot commodity?” says Paul Iacono, as he passes a giant billboard for HBO’s Hung, the word “Ho” plastered across Thomas Jane’s face. Never mind the overlap, this season, the 21- year-old writer-actor will play RJ in MTV’s Hard Times, a series about a young loner with, according to Iacono, “a massive, massive penis — but the show’s main organ is its heart.” He also stars in this month’s “reinvention” of Fame, a role for which he’s visibly grateful. But while strolling through his favorite East Village haunts (see our behind-the-scenes video), he’s just been informed that the film’s rating has gone from PG-13 to PG. “My character now says, ‘It was everything I hoped for and more, except for the part where I’m still a virgin — technically,’ instead of, ‘I was supposed to get laid.’ But,” he adds, grinning, “At least I get to drop my pants on TV.”

image Cafe Gitane 242 Mott Street This is one of my favorite places to get lost in my writing and grab some amazing French grub. I used to live around the corner on Elizabeth Street with my roommate at the time. He is kind of infamous in the area for being this very good-looking guy who paints on the corner of Elizabeth and Prince Street. It’s not even his art as much as his look that sells. Anyway, I found the apartment on Craigslist, and lived there for four months until our smack-user landlord, the guy I gave my rent check to, tried to evict us. I’ve written a play called Prince/Elizabeth, which was inspired by living down here.

Yaffa Cafe 97 Street. Mark’s Place I had insomnia for a full year, right after I dropped out of college to pursue acting. I’d come here at 3 in the morning for a cup of coffee and free wireless. It was a really hard decision to drop out of college—I spent a year in limbo, during which time I went out into the world and lived every fucking experience to a T.

image St. Mark’s Comics 11 St. Mark’s Place I’m a DC Comics fan all the way. One of the first films I recall seeing was Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. I watched Jack Nicholson play the Joker and fell absolutely in love—I became a 3-year-old child who watched Terms of Endearment and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I was a weird little kid.

Angel’s Share 8 Stuyvesant Street, 2nd Floor You stumble through a door at this sushi-and-sake restaurant thinking it leads to the restroom, but little do people know, it opens into this old, 1950s-inspired speakeasy with mahogany wood and leather. I get off on that. Apparently, there used to be swarms of these places during Prohibition, but they still exist, and Angel’s Share was the first one that I found. There’s PDT (113 St. Mark’s Place) below Crif Dogs. There’s also The Back Room (102 Norfolk Street), the entrance to which looks like a gate that leads into an alleyway that says “East Village Toy Company.” They serve drinks in coffee cups and beer in brown paper bags. I’ve been going out in New York since I was 15 years old. As long as you’re not a hot mess, most places in New York respect the youth. Plus, I’ve had many fake IDs over the years. My favorite was one on which Pennsylvania was spelled like “Peen-sylvania.”

image Sushi Samba 245 Park Avenue South It’s a Brazilian-and-Japanese fusion restaurant, so don’t expect the stereotypical spicy tuna roll. It’s got the best sushi in the city, original and authentic at the same time. They have a gorgeous rooftop patio at the one on Seventh Avenue. There’s such a lack of really nice outdoor seating in the city. Speaking of, I had a weird experience at Above Allen (190 Allen Street) a week ago. I was standing in line at the bar when someone jacked my BlackBerry right out from my back pocket.

image Topshop 478 Broadway All of their stuff has that classic men’s look—very straightforward, clean lines. I grew up idolizing the Rat Pack, which heavily influenced my identity and the way that I like to present myself. I’m not at the point yet where I get sent free stuff so, typically, most of my shopping is very practical. One thing I definitely learned from Fame is the power of mixing and matching, and the glory of accessories and layers.

Photography by Pieter Henket

New York: Top 10 Places to Spot Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson was here in New York for a while, where, like a mirage of tousled sex, he dodged fans while flitting from hotel to bar to hotel. If the young gentleman can ever again summon the courage to return to Manhattan — and its chorus of “OHMYGAWD ITSEDWARDILOVEEDWARD ICOULDJUSTDIEEEEEEEE” — here is a list of his favorite places to hide. Stalk away!

Pearl Street Diner (West Village) – According to this man’s Twitter account and this blogger’s mobile photos, the no-fuss West Village eatery was closed on July 15 when it became a filming location for Pattinson’s new movie. When asked for comment, Pearl’s cooks said, “We’ll never wash our hands again.”

Gemma (East Village) – Late last month, Pattinson was spotted dining at the Bowery Hotel restaurant with his blonde Remember Me co-star Emilie de Ravin — which makes sense, because the place is dark, sexy, and features “Late Night Bites.” ● B Bar & Grill (East Village) – Pattinson was once spotted exiting the East Village eatery and mega-patio at 1:30 in the morning after a night of pizza and Peroni with a crew of friends that included Calvin Klein firebrand Eva Mendes. ● The Cabin Down Below (East Village) – In celebration of a friend’s birthday, Pattinson reportedly spent a night holed up in this small model-and-rock star hang in the East Village. At the very least, even if he’s not here, you’re guaranteed to lock eyes with a Stroke or Agyness Deyn. ● Don Hill’s (Soho) – This one doesn’t exactly count, because the 23-year-old actor was on site filming a scene with Remember Me co-star Tate Ellington. Still, in its sweaty Squeezebox heyday — and its subsequent rebirth as the home of the MisShapes’ weekly debacle — this would have been a can’t-miss for Pattinson. ● Il Cantinori (Greenwich Village) – Pattinson was seen noshing on a Caprese salad and veal entrée in this dimly lit Greenwich Village hotspot. (His merry band of masticators added a modest $50 tip to their $350 bill.) ● Black & White (East Village) – Pattinson was instantly noticed by an anonymous fan when he walked into this oft-packed East Village bar. Allegedly, after three beers, he was overheard saying, “I need to stay away from women born after 1988 … ” ● Lure Fishbar (SoHo) – Not surprisingly, this SoHo seafood abattoir is an underground affair, and rumored to have hosted Pattinson during his New York retreat. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – For its “A Night Out With …” column, The New York Times brought director Catherine Hardwicke and her vegetarian cash cow to this tri-level Lower East Side restaurant, where the group sampled Chef Chris Santos’ macaroni-and-cheese and fish tacos. Later, they headed over to the nearby Death & Co, of which BlackBook said, mistakenly, it’s “vampire-free, at least as far as we can tell — it’s dark in here.” ● Cafe Gitane (Nolita) – The breakfast offerings here are unparalleled, the people-watching perches impressive and close friends say they saw Pattinson here. But they also swear that I look cool in hats.