New Village Idiot Operator Scott Conant Is Digging the Meatpacking District. Sort Of

conant1 New Village Idiot Operator Scott Conant Is Digging the Meatpacking District. Sort Of"This is an awesome space, an awesome location," chef Scott Conant said, during a packed-house grand opening party at his new digs in the meatpacking district–er, at least, sort of in the meatpacking district.

"It’s not really in the meatpacking, it’s on, you know what I’m saying?"

The former L’Impero and Alto cook‘s latest restaurant Scarpetta opened Monday evening in the former Gin Lane and old Village Idiot space at 355 West 14th Street, just east of Ninth Avenue.

"A lot of the core clientele, a lot of Upper East Siders and a lot of people from Uptown, they’re not going to be kind of spooked by going too much into the meatpacking. Too far inside of it, it might scare ‘em off. But because it’s on it, they feel comfortable coming down.

"I looked everywhere," Mr. Conant said. "But I really wanted it to be a West Village restaurant. It’s probably one of the last neighborhoods that is pure New York."

It’s a changing neighborhood, certainly: With the new Apple Store moving in just across Ninth Avenue and long-standing neighborhood institutions Florent and Passerby, um, passing on, landlords have been asking upward of $500 per square foot for retail space in the area.

"We took over the existing lease, so we’re not signing a new one–let’s put it that way–but still, we pay a significant amount," Mr. Conant said of the roughly 2,500-square-foot former dive-bar space.

"I’ve never personally been in a restaurant space that has this much chutzpah," he said proudly. "In order to tap into that, you need to pay the proper lease."

By the looks of it, he also spent a pretty penny on renovations. The improvements include a retractable glass roof.

"From the middle, it splits. When it does, it’s awesome. It’s just completely open, so you get a nice breeze into the space."