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.

Industry Insiders: Alan Linn, Members Only Fellow

Alan Linn created a home for the art world by hand picking every piece inside Norwood, his West Village private members-only club. An artist himself, Linn got his B.A. and M.A. at Royal College of Art in London and started his career working at local bars, but fell in love with New York. Lucky for him, a group of New Yorkers have since fallen in love with Norwood. Once a month, Linn selects random members to sit for dinner and hopes that Norwood’s legacy will be the projects that are inspired there. Everything from movie screenings to band performances occur under Norwood’s roof and spontaneous jam sessions take place regularly. (You might also be surprised to see which rock star comes in to play the piano every now and then). A chat with Linn after the jump.

How did your start in the hospitality business? I got a bar job just to pay bills and carry on being a painter after university. I worked at Andrew Edmonds restaurant in Soho, London, which is a real institution. I also worked at The Groucho Club. In the ‘80s and ‘90s it was a big hangout for artists like Damien Hirst. I worked there for about six months and left to run a members only club called Blacks. Joe Strummer and Kate Winslet would come in there. It was quite wild. I was there for 12 years.

How’d you make it across the pond? I fell in love with a New Yorker. I’m a gay man so I couldn’t come here officially by getting married, so I decided to open a business in New York. Although, it probably seems naïve to think I could just come to New York and open something that would be successful.

Still together? Yes, still together.

Do you have any partners in Norwood? Steve Ruggi is my business partner, and he was a founding member of Blacks. He knew I wanted to do this and his wife is a New Yorker and art critic for Art Forum in London as well. Steve had been a documentary filmmaker and then went into finance. It was a good match all around.

How did the business come together? It was day or two of looking at spaces. It was very important to me to have a house. A house makes people relax, and I love the idea that this is a house for the arts. I wanted to create a place where people actually looked each other in the eye and talked to each other and had a commonality of being creative and being curious. We’re still focused on being interested in people and seeing what we can develop.

How big is the 14th Street space? This house is 9000 square feet and 6 floors.

And you found it on day two of looking? There’s been a lot of serendipity with this project from the start. The outside of the building is landmarked. We preserved the interior, just bringing it to code. It’s one of the best townhouses in America. It has reverse staircases and solid silver handles on the mahogany doors and a marble fireplace.

Who belongs to Norwood? Our demographic is from the ages of 21 to 101. One member is a young writer who comes on his skateboard while others are people at the highest level of their careers. This is a club for New Yorkers. We only just began taking members from outside New York. We wanted to be established as a strong arts club for New York.

Who were the first members? The founding members were cherry picked from many different worlds. It was very important to me to have a good mix. We had the connections. It was two years getting the project together and now we’re two years open. We started with 300 members and are just over a thousand now.

How do you compete with Soho House? It is not about competition. It’s if people like what we offer.

Do you have sister clubs? If you’re a member here, you’re a member of The Ivy and The Groucho Club in London, as well as the Spoke Club in Toronto. Those are our affiliations, and helped in how we branded ourselves.

What was the inspiration for the interior? Simon Costin designed our interiors. We wanted it to seem that when you walk in the door, you’re somewhere else. It was very important to have a fragrance for the club so that if you were away the smell would bring you back. We go to flea markets every weekend looking for things for Norwood.

Plans for 2010? We’ll be opening a new dining room on the second floor. Andrew D’Ambrosi from Top Chef is our chef. We also want to eventually start a foundation to fund various art projects.

Who are your favorite artists? Francis Bacon, Henry Darger and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

What are your go-to places? Diner in Brooklyn, Fatty Crab, Basta Pasta, Boom Boom Room. I love hotel bars like at The Carlyle. Always great service.

Industry Insiders: Vinegar Hill House’s Jean Adamson, Sam Buffa, & Brian Leth

Jean Adamson and Sam Buffa met while both were working at Freemans. Their relationship gave way to sharing a love of the food and aesthetic that formed Vinegar Hill House. Sam is also partners with Taavo Somer in the FSC Barbershop. Six months into their Brooklyn venture, the Vinegar Hill House team found Brian Leth, the chef de cuisine since April, formerly of Prune and Allen & Delancey. Leth excites patron with his locally sourced menu with ethnic flairs.

How did you start in the business? Jean Adamson: I started cooking in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had a fascination with cooking and went to the French Culinary Institute. Then I worked for Keith McNally for nine years at Balthazar and Pastis, but it was too easy there for me. I was just expediting the process, so I said, “I have to get out.” I started consulting for Frank Prisinzano of Frank, Supper and Lil’ Frankie’s. I helped him standardize things. I was getting their recipes in order so that in each restaurant everyone was doing the same thing. A friend then called me to say this guy Taavo Somer was looking for a chef at Freeman’s. Their consistency was really poor, and I’m good at producing large amounts of food at once. They were transferring into the first expansion so they needed a day-to-day chef to run everything. So I worked there for three years, and that’s where I met Sam. Sam Buffa: I was helping Taavo with the basic construction of their expansion. At the same time, the space at the front of the alley became available and I proposed the barbershop idea to Taavo. It’s still sort of my day job. Jean and I, from day one, have had similar interests. I always wanted to open a restaurant but had never worked in the field. I always liked the idea of building a restaurant.

How did you come across the space for Vinegar Hill House? JA: When Sam and I met, we were showing off the cool neighborhoods we knew in Brooklyn. I was living in Park Slope at the time, and the next day my landlord came to me and said the carriage house was becoming available in Vinegar Hill. It’s the house behind where the restaurant is now. I told him that I wanted it and I waited a year for it. SB: I told her to ask him about commercial spaces. Once we got the space it was like, “Oh shit now we have to open a restaurant.”

So you did. JA: When we told people about the location they were like, “No way.” When you’re milling around on a bicycle you just end up here. We opened last November after Sam designed the restaurant. We call the downstairs space “the den” and people rent it out for private events. I was the chef but was looking for a way to segue out. Then this gem, Brian, walked in the door. He’s changed the landscape of the restaurant. I always intended on being a local farms and local produce restaurant and he made that happen. He also wanted Brian wanted a Vita-Prep. It’s amazing watching the stuff he makes with it. Brian Leth: I’m a puree guy.

Where have you worked before? BL: I started cooking in New Mexico. A friend of a friend helped steer me towards a job at Prune and I learned a lot there. Then, I worked at Blue Hill and Café des Artistes. I was at Allen & Delancey for about a year. JA: Brian has a broad spectrum of food knowledge from having worked at so many places.

Are you already thinking about the next project? SB: I think its always on our mind. JA: We want to be solid here before the next place.

Something people don’t know about you? JA: That I’m nice. SB: I used to race motorcycles BL: I’m a serious Scrabble player

What are your favorite places? JA, SB, BL: Hotel Delmonico and Rusty Knot.

How about restaurants? BL: Ippudo, Prime Meats, and wd-50. JA, SB: Sripraphai for Hawaiian pizzas, Roberta’s, The Smile, Joe’s Shanghai for soup dumplings.

What’s on your favorite playlist right now? JA, SB: Lady Gaga and talk radio. BL: The Replacements and Steely Dan.

Pop Quiz: Del Marquis

While many music fans know Del Marquis mainly as the power pop guitarist for the band Scissor Sisters, Marquis has been showcasing a deeper artistic approach in his recent solo work. Marquis’ newest project is a large scale release including three separate albums that dropped over the past six months starting with HotHouse, then Character Assassination, followed by Litter to Society and the final culmination Runaround (released tomorrow, September 22nd). The release is not just music minded, the entire four album set is meant to be viewed as one piece; a fully integrated multi-media project featuring music, short form video, and long form “intersode” videos such as The Third Rail. Promising to entertain fans of filmmakers like Fritz Lang, The Third Rail combines themes of oppression and a dystopian vision of the future with an abstract sci-fi feel. Here, Del takes our Pop Quiz.

What were your career aspirations as a child? A gymnast. I was training seriously from age 5 till 13, but quit when I became more interested in music.

Tattoos? One. A safety pin drawn as if it’s puncturing the skin. It’s in memory of a friend who had the same tattoo.

Are you superstitious? Yes, I always avoid cracks in the pavement; hold my breath while passing cemeteries and touch clocks when they strike 11:11.

First album you bought? “You can do Magic,” by America, was my first single, and “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s my first album.

If you could have any super power, what would you choose? To be invisible. Not to disappear, but to see what happens when no one knows you are in the room. What restaurant would you eat at every day if you could ? Applewood in Park Slope. It’s not too showy but always exceptional.

How many times a day on average do you think about sex? Constantly. I look forward to the day when my libido cools down. It’s distracting.

Ever been arrested? I narrowly avoided arrest multiple times as a teenager, because I was so fast. This was for such things as, egging cars, lighting fires, stealing hood ornaments off of cars, blowing up garbage cans. I can’t believe some of the things I used to do, without a conscience. My friends and I used to make sticks of dynamite by sawing of the ends of pineapple firecrackers, and fusing the shells of gun powder together with wax.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Sugar, and I’m not talking Madonna eating a piece of toast with jam and thinking it a guilty pleasure. I’ve been known to purchase and eat and entire cake. Sometimes it must look like an episode of Degrassi Jr. High, and I’m the girl with an eating disorder, but without the vomiting.

Ever been star struck? Paul McCartney.

When you get good news, who’s the first person you tell? My best friend David, who also works in music.

What do you always watch if it’s on TV? The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I spent summers on the Jersey shore, and I feel like I know that kind of women. It’s riotously funny, and for the first time, it seems like there is a reason for reality TV.

What do you normally sleep in? Briefs.

What’s on your computer wallpaper? An image of Tony Ward from 1990’s Vogue. He’s peering through blinds.

If you could be any literary character, who would you be? When I was a kid, Charlie McGee in Firestarter. Now, I don’t know, honestly.

Where do you really want to be right now? At my friend Mark’s party in Provincetown called FAGBASH. It feels like the first and last bar/dance party on earth.

What’s the first job you ever had? I was 8 years old, and spent summers at my fathers loft in Soho (Not the same SOHO that exists now). There was a street vendors’ market on Spring and Wooster, and one of the jewelry vendors would pay me 5 bucks on the weekends to organize the table for him. I remember also getting paid in 80’s pins, the ones in diamante letters that said “PARIS” or “NEW YORK.”

Favorite Muppets/Sesame Street character? The Cookie Monster, for obvious reasons.

Pop Quiz: Pirate Love

The dissonance you feel in your gut when you pair “Pirate” and “Love” couldn’t be more perfect. Sprinkle in a glob of garage-surf-punk blanketed with the sharpest of black atmospherics, and you have yourself Norway’s very own Pirate Love. After coming off a huge European tour with Serena Maneesh, the band made a mid-June stop off in Toronto for North By Northeast, before switching gears and making a thunderous maiden trip to NYC for shows in support of their just album, Black Voudoun Space Blues. I was able to catch them at their summer Piano’s show where they pounded out psyche-punk tunes, coming across as a cross between Brian Jonestown Massacre and Turbo Negro. Obviously influenced by their visit to America, the lead singer, David Dajani, appeared on stage in a cowboy hat and daisy dukes. Check out his answers to our Pop Quiz after the jump.

Where do you live? Oslo. Where darkness reigns.

What’s your favorite piece of clothing? My purple sequined jacket bought in a really weird shop in Toronto. Then I lost it in New York, so now I gotta preform in my short-ass daisy dukes, which isn’t too bad, I guess.

Beer, liquor, wine or water? 96% Norwegian homemade moonshine. That gets me going.

If you could have any super power, what would you choose? I’d love to have the power to end all wars and make peace on earth. Or the power to win all wars and rule everything under my totalitarian control.

Do you think about sex frequently? I’m actually a huge porn connoisseur. Pirate Love bassist Herr R is the same way. So I think about sex all the time. Goddamn San Fernando Valley, I’m hooked!

Have you ever been arrested? Yeah, a couple of times. I got really drunk and stoned in a club in Oslo many years ago. Apparently, I was walking around with a couple of wine bottles, barefoot and started flying into the walls. Then I faked a seizure and the ambulance showed up. Then I busted out laughing as they tried to “awaken” me, and they called the cops. Didn’t get back into that club for a couple of years.. Where do you really want to be right now? Deep space.

What’s your favorite thing about America? The immorality of it, the brilliance of it, the art of faking it, the illusions and the dollar–even though it’s pretty weak right now.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A motherfucking hustler.

If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Russian caviar.

What’s the best bar in Oslo? Robinet. Great drinks, great music, great bartenders. Even though it’s really tiny.

What’s the best present you ever received? Probably the gift of being brilliant.

Industry Insiders: Tommy Saleh, Grand Vizier

Tommy Saleh, creative director for New York’s Soho Grand and Tribeca Grand hotels, is the mellow curator of coolness who’s been keeping both downtown institutions grand since they opened in 1996 and 2000, respectively. With a keen eye for talent, the soft-spoken, Egyptian-born Saleh consistently hosts the most groundbreaking musicians, artists, and scene-making cultural figures at his twin lairs. If you run into Saleh at a party in New York or LA or Istanbul or Marrakesh or London — you know you’re in the right place.

What’s your job title? I’m the creative director of the Tribeca and Soho Grand hotels, the food and beverage director, as well as the marketing and promotional director.

What do you need to know to do your job? Many accomplished people don’t know what they want. They’re too busy to know. It’s being their entertainment consultant, not just supplying what they ask for but letting them know what they want. It’s knowing that when they ask for a Japanese restaurant recommendation that you send them to Hasaki and not Nobu because Nobu is Asian fusion. It’s knowing what that particular person really wants.

How have these hotels remained successful? It’s not just about the people who come at stay at the hotel for us. It’s about the people who live around us.

How’d you start in the business? I have been working in hotels since my college years. I lived in Santa Barbara and Honolulu. I loved being a concierge and using the seven languages that I speak. I’m not a promoter but I always like a good party and feel there’s a lack of good parties. Back then there were good parties. People weren’t just looking to capitalize or cash in. There weren’t the situations where this guy would never come in but he is willing to buy this many bottles. So they’d let him in and act like his friend. There are people who stuck to their ideas like Nur Khan. I didn’t sell out. After 9/11, everyone was doing bottle service, and I wanted to give people value for their money, so we started doing shows.

What kind of shows? Bands like Bloc Party, Soulwax, Mud, Milo, Hot Chip, Peaches, and Miss Kitten. We wanted to give people entertainment, and we had them before people ever heard of them. We did events with Visionaire and Chanel and did it downtown style.

What are some of the special events that you handle for the hotels? We have a movie theater and have film events that support the local community. There’s the gallery where we do four proper art installations a year, and we have bands play in the Sanctum regularly. We have 15 fashion shows during Fashion Week. Then I also oversee the magazine that has a quarter million subscribers. We also do an event called “New York, New York” every six months in Paris. We do it with Derek Blasberg from All New York-originated companies get involved, and we fly everyone involved over.

What was your first New York job? My first job was as a concierge at the Soho Grand. It was the year the hotel opened, 1996. Being a concierge is all about connections, getting tickets for every sports event, every music concert — sold out or not — getting a plane at a moments notice to fly to an island. I had those connections and still do. I can make things happen.

Your favorite thing about New York style? New York has become like Sex and the City with everyone walking around in Jimmy Choo shoes thinking they’re so cool. These people have no taste. They just go to the Chole store and buy a whole outfit. This has been going on in New York for the past ten years, but it’s also been going on in London, Paris, and Spain. I like it when it is a Chanel dress with YSL shoes and vintage accessories. That is what true New Yorkers do. People can have no money but get creative.

Which city has it right? In London they’re so passionate about music and fashion. Berlin is full of either rave-type places or more Sex and the City places. The music is mostly techno and soulless. Barcelona is kind of dorky. I still like the music that comes from New York, and Stockholm produces great music. Cities who produce good music seem to get it.

Your favorite city? No matter how bad New York gets there is still such variety and accessibility. You can still go to five or six places until you find what you’re in the mood for that night, because of New Yorkers themselves. New Yorkers talk about the little designer whose dresses they love. They talk about an indie band they heard in Brooklyn. They talk about the tiny Italian restaurant that has the best manicotti.

What is on your radar music-wise? New Rock infused with electronica. Kitsune, Friendly Fires, Phoenix.

Who are your favorite artists? Kenzo Minami, Nisian Hughes, Poppy De Villeneuve.

Where do you hang out? Upstairs at Bouley, Omen, Hasaki, Pepolino, Marlow & Sons.

What are you doing tonight? Going to John DeLucie’s restaurant on Charles Street.

Something people don’t know about you? I haven’t even cooked toast.

Industry Insiders: Dagny Mendelsohn, Mademoiselle Macao

Dagny Mendelsohn is the front woman representing the 11 total owners at Macao Trading Company. She hails from the other serious foodie city, San Francisco, once she set foot in New York, she learned the heart of the restaurant business from one of the best, Keith McNally. She embraced the underground hipster scene from being part of APT, as well as gaining an education from the fashionistas (a.k.a. Richie Rich). At Macau, she brings it all together under one roof with dinners for people like Perry Farrell, Mick Rock and Morimoto.

Was San Francisco an influence in your career choices? My parents are very involved in the art and food scene in San Francisco. One of their best friends is the chef, Alice Waters and also Patricia Unterman who is a restaurant critic and owner. San Francisco is dedicated to amazing meals with fresh produce from the garden. It was always in my blood, but I didn’t know I would go forward with it. My family also has a vineyard a hour out of San Francisco, and I grew up surrounded by artists and chefs.

Anyone in particular? When I was growing up, Richie Rich baby sat me. My mom and Richie were really good friends. So I went to all the gay parties. I was at the Beige Party every Tuesday. I also worked on his first Heatherette show.

How’d you break into the New York scene? I decided to start promoting at a place on Avenue A called Opalene while I was at NYU. It was a good party because I brought the fashion crowd from my internships — at Betsy Johnson, ELLE and VH1 — and older New Yorkers that I met through my family and the men I dated. When I finished NYU, I started modeling. I had a rock ‘n roll look that was starting to be popular, and I signed a 3 year contract with Elite. The whole experience turned me off to fashion.

How’d you meet Keith McNally? I finally called Alice Waters and she set up an interview with Keith McNally. He hired me at the interview and I started working at Pastis. I learned so much from Keith. He is one of the most intelligent businessmen I’ve ever met. We’re still friends. After work, the staff would all go to APT. I became friends with the manager, Ray Percal, and he eventually said, “Since you’re here every night, you should just work here and get paid for it.” But then, Keith called me and offered me to open Schiller’s with him from scratch.

Where’d you go from there? I was the general manager at Bar 11. It was a rock n roll and fashion bar. Then the boys from Employees Only called me. Billy had been the bar manager at Schiller’s. Igor I knew from Pastis days. Dushan, Jay and Akiva had all been bartenders at Schiller’s. We’re all McNally people.

Did you get back into throwing parties? Yes, everywhere. At Hiro for three years. I worked with GBH. I started a Saturday night party at Movida and 205 on Tuesdays. Then I got exhausted. I decided I didn’t want to stay out all night anymore. So I quit all the promoting. Then all the same guys who pulled me for Employees Only asked me to be part of the next project, Macao. This space came from meeting with Patrick Fahey. He was part of this space.

What exactly is your involvement at Macao? I’m a managing owner.

Where do you go when you’re not at work? Commerce, Employees Only, Takahachi, the movies.

Who do you admire in the business? There’s a list of people in the industry who I admire and who have influenced me over the years. Alice Waters, Patricia Unterman, Ray Pirkle, Serge Becker, Riad Nasr, Keith McNally, Stanley Morris and the team behind Employees Only.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you? I’m a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. I’ve always wanted to be a private investigator.

Who’s your favorite artist? Cindy Sherman, Eric Mendelsohn’s sketches…no relation, Eric Orr, John Register.

What’s your favorite city? San Francisco because it will always be home and the most beautiful place in the world. I miss it for the farmer’s markets and the freshest produce, for the restaurants, the gardens, the parks, the art, the music, my family. I could go on forever.

Industry Insiders: Albert Trummer, Apothecary Deluxe

Albert Trummer is the Austrian bar chef and brains behind Chinatown operation Apothéke. With business-minded partner Heather Tierney, Trummer serves his liquid medicine from behind the bar to an eager clientele night after night at the booming corner spot on Doyers Street. While growing up in his family’s restaurant in Austria, Trummer learned his way around the bar and turned his father’s private club into a booming hotspot at the age of 15. He’s since worked for the likes of David Bouley, the Chambers Hotel, Home Bar on Shelter Island, and 60 Thompson. The master mixologist speaks about who does nightlife best, the apothecary premise and his plans for the future. And for a special video clip, he even mixes up his famous flaming inferno beverage for BlackBook’s Cayte Grieve and Eiseley Tauginas.

Who does it right in the business? David Bouley is not just my mentor; he is my idol and the rock star of chefs.

How have you showcased your talent? The biggest event that I did myself was the Music Awards hosted in Miami. I was hired by Louis Vutton/Hennesy. We served 2,000 people in the mansion at the Outkast event. The ordering list was incredible. We made an over 300-gallon special container of mojito for the party. It was empty by the end.

How did you meet Heather Tierney? She had written about me when she worked for Time Out. She had a vision for the place. I always wanted to have a venue with an apothecary concept. In Europe, these places are like Duane Reade. They’re cozy, and you know your pharmacist who writes your prescription. That’s how I feel went we create a drink for someone.

How will you improve the apothecary experience further? My wish list includes creating a healthy alcohol. I’ve been talking to a distiller and doing tests and found that the herbs I use are holistic remedies for some gastro-intestinal problems. It’s a secret formula that I hope to get FDA-approved and produce “Albert’s Remedy.”

Are you looking to open another place? I have many offers. I prefer to be in a hotel, as that’s my background, and they supply the level of facility I require. I’d also like to start the service of having a cocktail butler, where the mixologist goes to your room with assistants, and it is a type of show for the guests. I’d like to have Albert’s Cocktail Theater.

Tell us about Apothéke’s mixologists. Miguel is from Mexico and does Aztec-related drinks, working with Mezcal and tequila. Jack is American and does Savoy-style bourbon drinks. Bourbon is hot right now. Greg is a specialist in Italian bitters. Orson is from Venezuela and brings the Amazon and rain forest.

Any house secrets you can share? I ship the herbs and oils from all over the world, and we soak our limes with sugarcane.

Is the recession affecting you? My grandfather said this is a safe business. Even in this economy, people still eat and drink all the time. People still need entertainment.

Where do you eat and drink? I always go to a Bouley or Daniel Boulud’s restaurant. The food is fantastic, and there are no shortcuts. I also really like Da Silvano, and Smith and Mills takes pride in their drinks.

Are you doing any special events this year? Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday party in July. I’m creating the drink called The Mandela, which is based on African herbs and elderflower. The host is Bill Clinton.

Favorite authors? Ernest Hemingway and Jack London.

What is something people don’t know about you? I think David Copperfield is a great entertainer.

Favorite artist? Salvador Dali.

Is there a city that does nightlife better than New York? I’ve traveled all over the world, and none of them can compete with New York.

Why? The variety of cocktails. The master chefs from around the world work here.

Anything we could do to improve nightlife in New York? It’s missing intimate music clubs that they have in LA. Places where someone like Sting is recording. It’s a great part of the music scene there. New York needs smaller, more sophisticated music venues.
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Industry Insiders: Sandra Ardito, Giving the OK to KO

Sandra Ardito heads sales, marketing and special events for KO Hospitality Management (Cooper Square Hotel, Empire Hotel, Hotel on Rivington, and Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City). We met the hospitality connoisseur at the Cooper Square Hotel to get the scoop on the Hamptons Memorial Day hotspot, the Reform Club Inn (suites and private cottages in Amagansett), working for Ian Schrager, and why we should stay at Cooper Square (besides the fact that it’s the location of the Bjork’s afterparty tonight).

Is this the first hotel KO has developed? No, we did the Empire Hotel on 63rd Street, and we did the Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City for Paul Sevigny and Matt Abramcyk. For those hotels, I would describe us as the hired guns.

Who are the other members of the KO team? Klaus Ortlieb, Yana Yevinson, Meg Burnie, Manuela Kolb, and Annie Ohayon.

How’d you get here? I was the director of special events at Chanterelle. Budgets were $250,000 to a million back then. And while there, I moonlighted by helping people open their restaurants. I opened the Harrison with owner Jimmy Bradley. I met some amazing people, like Joey Campanaro from Little Owl. I was Jason and Jen’s investor at ‘ino on Bedford street. Eventually, Meg Burnie brought me into meet Klaus at the Hotel on Rivington. That’s when I left Chanterelle. My first event at the Rivington was Timothy Greenfield Sander’s XXX Book. Bill Dye called me to be part of Gramercy Park Hotel with Ian Schrager. We opened with the Marc Jacobs party on September 11, 2006, after working for months nonstop. I shadowed Ian for the two nights before we opened the hotel. He had receptions for all of his friends and was surprised at how I knew them. He said, “You are the girl, you are going to do this.” It was like a love letter. And he trained me and nurtured me into this role. Finally, Klaus started KO Hospitality Management about a year and a half ago and asked me if I wanted to be a partner. It was very hard to leave Ian. At KO, we work with owners and developers from ground-up construction. We attaché the restaurant, the architect, the interior designer, and conceptualize the entire project.

Something unique about Cooper Square Hotel? Every book in the Cooper Square hotel was picked through Housing Works, which is a charity for AIDS victims. People can purchase the books and the money will go to the charity. Klaus is a seasoned professional who only takes on projects he believes in. He worked with Andre Balazs and Ian Schrager for years. He wanted the experience at Cooper Square to be completely different, that’s why there’s no reception desk. There’s a lobby host who shows you to your room. It’s about personal attention. Klaus sat on 575 chairs until he choose what he felt was the right one. We’re also building a screening room on the second floor. There’s an indoor/outdoor bar on the second floor as well, and a 3,000-square-foot terrace.

What is your specific contribution? The total experience here. I hand-picked the staff. What Ian and Klaus have given me, I hope to give to someone else.

What’s the next project? We are helicoptering to the Reform Club Inn in Amagansett to get ready to open for Memorial Day weekend.

What music do you listen to? Rock ‘n roll — Iggy Pop, The Raconteurs, Jane’s Addiction.

Favorite artist? Radek Szczesny.

Favorite restaurants? ‘inoteca, Little Owl, and James in Brooklyn

Favorite bar? Royal Oak in Williamsburg, Madame Geneva in the Double Crown and Bowery Electric.

Favorite hotel? East Deck in Montauk for a retro motel and The Crillion in Paris for high-end.

Who do you admire in the business? I grew up reading about Ian Schrager and then had the pleasure of working for him. He hired me to be his director of special events. The man who started the party is looking at me and letting me see his vision. It’s an honor and the best compliment. I also admire Klaus Ortlieb for his loyalty, compassion, and integrity, and Nur Khan for the incredible way he takes care of people

Who do you feel does it right? Joe and Jason Denton of ‘inoteca and Lupa

What’s something people don’t know about you? I’m an avid gardener and spend all my money on plants for my roof deck that I made totally grassroots style with my boyfriend.

What are you doing tonight? Going to Bjork’s concert at Housing Works and then to her after party at Cooper Square Hotel.

Photo: Mike Mabes