Travertine Blowup Brings Out the Lawyers, Mark Baker Swims with Dolphins

So this Travertine/XIX piece I posted Friday seems to have stirred the pot. I think that metaphor is a little weak — it was more like the chubby kid doing a cannonball and drenching the sunbathers by the pool. There’s even a lawyer involved now, although who he represents isn’t clear to me. The weekend was spent conversing through various media with the players involved.

Mark Baker is out in Bali working on some events and swimming with dolphins. Actually, the last correspondence had him too upset to swim with dolphins. Ruben Rivera is off working at W.I.P. and planning moves that will eventually have him on top of the nightlife world. Owner Danae Cappelletto communicated with me via Facebook, which indicates she is back in Australia. So this conversation involves people in exotic Australia, Bali, Lower East Side, and Williamsburg. Now that’s sexy.

Danae was very upset with me, but I gave her the "don’t shoot the blogger" rap, and she apologized and said she was going to send me her side of things today for publication. I did get a letter from a lawyer for "Travertine LLC":

… we insist that you immediately remove the article from your web site and then issue a public retraction.

Had your staff done even a minimal level of fact checking before printing the unfounded and libelous accusations, you would have learned that the content of the article is false. Mr. Rivera, who as his own agenda, resigned from his position in advance of his imminent dismissal for unprofessional conduct and a matter that is being investigated. His quotes are merely the ramblings of a disgruntled, former associate.

Your reported insinuations about Travertine are not only untrue, but have caused and continue to cause damages to Travertine. Worse still, by being a conduit for the public defamation of Travertine, you are effectively interfering with the ongoing operation of the Travertine business.

Danae wasn’t talking lawsuit; she was just asking for her piece to be posted in the interest of clarification. So who knows who’s behind this letter.

Mark Baker has told me he has decided to get out of the project. He seems to be taking the high road here. I love Mark and have always known him to try his best to be a gentleman. I hope he and Ruben kiss and make up. Ruben is out and working and happy. Emails and texts from him are focused on the future and a lesson-learned attitude. I asked Mark if his partner Artan Gjoni was also out. He replied that he hadn’t spoken to him in a few days: "He’s obviously upset surprised and as confused as I am."

Mark wanted to clarify that Ruben quit. I thought that was clear. It said it right up top, first paragraph: "We learn that main man Ruben Rivera has quit and moved over to W.i.P". This is a game of "he said, she said," and as I pointed out to Danae, if everyone would just stop talking to me, I would have nothing to say.

Mark Baker issued his own statement for publication:

Hi steve … After having this distress on my mind for 2 days now I want to "After reading the piece about XIX steve, I feel there are a couple of things that need to be clarified..I would never normally have this dialogue in a public forum as its just not necessary and usually gets misunderstood., but I have to address your piece as it was incomplete not entirely accurate and insinuated that ruben was kicked out of the deal..WRONG. To start with artan and I were asked to come in by the investor to revamp and relaunch the reataurant and club after a renovation. Artan and ruben to be the 2 lead owner-operators and me in supporting and marketing role…. This was to take place during january and re open for february..we were forming a partnership between us and the current owner was to step aside from operations .BUT , there was so much bad blood between ruben and the current owner dustin, we (artan and I ) tried to bring everyone together to work together , but the daily fights and mistrust between them was insane and apparantly irreparable, I advised ruben to take a break and come back energised and fresh so he could be the partner and operator he always wanted to be.. get his commission on the sale and own a piece of the venue, the attorneys were drawing up the contracts on dec 30th !! On jan 3rd ruben announced he was quiting and would pull the promoters out and sabotage the deal. I guess he just didn’t want to deal with the current owner anymore…he had had enough.. .Let’s be quite clear on THE FACTS… Ruben was NOT pushed out of the deal .. HE QUIT OF HIS OWN FREE WILL.. While we were drawing up a management contract for HIM,ARTAN and MYSELF… He walked away from it and was not cut out of anything.

The whole thing stinks and everyone looses.ruben expects everyone to quit also and walk away or everyone is" NOT LOYAL" .. The staff, the promoters artan me and everyone has to "quit" because ruben has.. I think its crazy as there is always a middle road and ruben for once could have owned his own place, albeit with partners.. Well..welcome to the real world of nitelife where everyone has to have partners.. And you have to work with them and compromise.. Everyone else has to anx does…. That’s life. "My way or the highway" doesn’t work. So EVERONE looses here, I have decided to step away from the deal also at this moment as its just too much drama.. And we don’t want to upset ruben do we.. That’s my piece…. How sad. Could have been great.

The space is still great and most of the players are as well. I suggest that a real-deal sit-down is in order when everyone can be gathered in the same hemisphere. Mark Baker is a gentleman, as is Artan. I have always found Ruben to be wonderful and more than capable. He was doing very well by any standards in a small basement lounge after the restaurant failed. He kept that place afloat and was anxious to continue with Mark and Artan running the restaurant above. Then, this implosion happened. Danae is a sweetheart and a great chef who isn’t the first operator to have a problem getting traction with a restaurant in NYC. We await her statement and are aware of the time differences. Mark Baker and I have been talking as he is getting up and I am crashing and vice versa. He’s swimming with dolphins while apparently some people want me swimming with fishes. Déjà vu all over again.

Namaste from Bondi Beach: Danae Cappelletto Just Wants Peace

So if I’m beating a dead horse, let me know, but I have a feeling the Travertine/XIX space is not dead at all. It is getting more free ink here than the people at Fineline Tattoo are giving out this Saturday in honor of Sailor Jerry’s 101st birthday. I love all the players at Travertine, even the players who aren’t players anymore and possibly never were. It gets confusing as everyone is nice and every story is completely believable. So were’s the beef? I promised the owner and former chef Danae Cappelletto a chance to speak her piece. She only speaks Australian so it was a rough go a couple of times. We were being all Facebook-fuzzy nice when I told her about the lawsuit her company threatened me and Blackbook with in a legal letter put out yesterday. The Facebook exchange went as follows. I will translate when the Australian gets too thick. I’ll also correct some spelling.

i’ve just read the new piece, i got a hand it to you, you do write an intriguing story. Thank you Steve, I hope this all goes to bed soon but in the mean time i do appreciate you giving us the opportunity to respond.
Mark and ruben are friends(of mine) but there is only one truth…i really believe this might serve to clear the air and end up good if egos are put aside… so who over there put the lawyers On me?
oh god no not on you!
i’m putting a statement together for you now, and no the letter was certainly not in any way directed at you x
Well it was sent to bbook… asking for a retraction and removal of post… its all good get me your statement and i will do my best to get it out
The letter was really to stop guys that had nothing to do with the project from jumping on this, i have no idea how that happened its mindboggling!
Here is my statement for you – Thank you again
Steve, you know the funniest thing about all this is, there’s people (Mark Baker) making comments back and forth here that were never involved in the project! its Bonkas!
Honestly, sometimes you have to laugh –and I do appreciate that you are just the messenger. To be honest, with the huge ego’s floating around and all the self-serving misinformation I really don’t want to bore your readers making more corrections. Lawyers do that. I do wish Ruben the best of luck running his new door post.
Our economy and the neighborhood have changed a lot in the last 3 years since we started and I feel your real story will come in due course when the updated concept is revealed by the new team. Namaste – from Bondi
So the letter is not directed at me or bbook but says we …i had it all wrong and wanted us to take it down and print a retraction?????
Well as you can see from the above Mark was not involved in the venue so its all nonsense
Ahh now namaste from bondi is confusing.. there is Bondi in the l.e.s. or an australian reataurant..which bondi? which namaste?… and what you are saying was no deal had been finalized with mark baker
Ok so i assume its spice namaste from bondi beach new south wales
LOL sorry – Namaste (meaning peace) from Bondi Beach yes that is correct nothing had ever been remotely close to finalized with Mark
Namaste is a term used over here to say "peace" and i am in Bondi Beach in Sydney Australia x i’m sorry for the confusion
That Australian sure is a funny language. George Bernard Shaw once said that England and America are "two nations divided by a common language." Maybe that’s all that’s going on here. Maybe a translator is needed to help these people get it all together. Baker wasn’t talking in the same dialect as Ruben. Mark was talking fabulous and wonderful and amazing, lots of jetsetter speak while Ruben was talking L.E.S. street-real.. all about respect, what I’ve done, and can do. Danae and I had a little trouble at first . She lambasted me in Australian from Bondi before we re-upped as great friends and not just Facebook friends. The lawyers are talking in "legaleze," a language only they seem to understand. They seemingly targeted me, when the owner Danae (speaking in Australian) clearly holds me harmless. I had that beef with that other guy saying "Jew" this and "Jew" that, but I can easily also chalk that  to a language barrier. He probably meant no harm, just that where he comes from it’s a common expression.
As the poet Mick Jagger said at that famous Atltamont concert right before, or was it after a biker stabbed someone who had a gun, "Brothers and sisters, come on now! That means everybody just cool out. We can cool out … why are we fighting?" The biker and the gun-toter were speaking a common language and got right to the point. Everybody understood what they were saying without all these words. What are they all fighting about? As Danae said (in Australian) "It’s Bonkas!". Nobody is talking about what the fighting stems from. It seems to be all egos on the surface and maybe that’s all it is… slices of pie not being divided as everyone likes and power shifting around and not being clearly defined… and maybe that language thing too. Well, anyway, Namaste from BBurg!

Let’s Compare Danae Cappelletto & Amy Sacco’s Boyfriends

Many of the women I meet in nightlife only make me long for Amy Sacco. There are plenty of women present who give it just as good as the guys, but there are also plenty of women who realize they’re a minority in the after-dark world, and carry themselves with a sort of defensive air accordingly, as if I need to be reminded. Which is why I was excited to see Page 6 Magazine‘s profile of Danae Cappelletto, the talent behind Travertine and the new club-entry XIX. Unfortunately, while the article directly compares Cappelletto with Sacco, the points of comparison veer away from the powerhouse ladies’ nightlife resumes, focusing instead on all-important questions like who they’re dating and what they wear.


It’s fun if fluffy stuff, certainly, but if we’re crowning the heir to one of the most notable nightlife impresarios in recent memory, perhaps heftier points of interest are in order? What is Travertine’s effect on nightlife? How might it be mimicking Bungalow 8’s takeover of the Chelsea West Side? How is their celebrity following comparable? What obstacles have the two women overcome? Pointing out who Cappelletto and Sacco are dating while neglecting to look at the cultural impact of their endeavors reminds me a little of this. Then again, it’s just nightlife.

Industry Insiders: Danae Cappelletto, Wizard of Oz

Australian restaurateur Danae Cappelletto opened New York eatery Travertine early last year, an arduous process she once described as “a gladiator sport.” But Cappalletto slew the tiger, and now she has her very own modern, sleek, candlelit Mediterranean restaurant in a building that housed the popular mafia hangout Little Charlie’s Clam Bar until it shuttered in 2007. Once she settled on the space in Manhattan’s NoLita, she’s been collecting accolades for her award-winning investment ever since. The granddaughter of famed Australian chef Giuseppe R. Cappelletto, is finally making a name for herself.

Go-to places: Al di Là, this old school Italian place in Brooklyn, for their cheese plate, shaved fennel salad and squid ink polenta. Moustache for their tabbouleh and falafel. Estiatorio Milos for a special fine-dining treat. I like Apothéke for the amazing infusion and La Esquina for the tequila.

On her idols: Donatella Arpaia. I sent her a message on Facebook inviting her to the restaurant. She came, and is completely amazing. She’s such a strong woman in the business.

On getting to know the family biz: My grandfather was a big chef in northern Italy. That’s where my family’s from originally. When they came to Australia, they opened a series of restaurants. My father is an amazing cook. He made all the food for the banquets they would do. It’s just in my blood. We had a veggie garden and we’d pick the vegetables and bring them in for cooking. This has always been my mentality.

On getting her start: I started working for a company called The Merivale Group, a big hospitality company in Australia, as a bartender. I just love working with people. Then worked my way into managing and established their biggest venue for them, as well as did special events. I left that company to get into the more elegant side of things with a venue space called the Tea Rooms. I opened a place for them that had a panoramic view of the harbor. The place was just stunning. They did weddings, events, and had a fine dining restaurant. It won a whole bunch of awards — one being for the best wedding event center.

On finding the right city: I was supposed to move to Greece to do events for the Belvedere Hotel in Mykonos. Before I was to start I came to New York for a visit with my brother and fell in love with the city and couldn’t leave; I love it so much. I arrived on the evening of Halloween of 2006. I had to call and tell them I wasn’t coming. I couldn’t leave New York. I also reconnected with my brother, and we made a pact we were never going to live in different cities anymore.

On being self-sufficient: I got a job that would sponsor me for a green card, but eventually decided that I wanted to have my own restaurant and I quit my job to do it. I was eventually able to sponsor myself.

On finding the perfect location: I spent ten months trolling Manhattan for the right location. Everything here is part of my vision.

On the name: Travertine is a rock that grows. It just seemed like the perfect name.

What’s next? For spring, we’ll open the expanded space downstairs at Travertine for reclining dining.