Two of the city’s top banquet behemoths were honored last night at the International Special Events Society’s Annual Big Apple Awards at Cipriani Wall Street:
Michael Desiderio, chief operating officer of Tavern on the Green, and Joe Cozza, vice president of sales and marketing at Cipriani USA–both of whom are facing significant challenges these days in keeping their illustrious New York institutions afloat.
Tavern, for one, faces a potential bidding war to keep its sprawling 27,000-square-feet digs at Central Park. Cipriani, meanwhile, is struggling to hold onto its liquor licenses after CEO Giuseppe Cipriani pleaded guilty to tax charges last year.
I asked the friendly Mr. Desiderio, in light of the upcoming bidding process: Was the restaurant proposing any changes to its image?
No major changes–just some improvements, he said, waxing nostalgic about Tavern’s historic place in New Yorker’s imaginations. "There’ll be requests for enhancing the décor and building, and additional economics, I think that’s part of it.”
I pressed the issue: Does the city want to hang on to the same old Tavern on the Green?
Mr. Desiderio said he couldn’t speak for them but that they “are committed to maintaining the work and the image of the city of New York and the Conservancy. Both the city and the restaurant are committed to running a first-class dining experience.”
Later, I caught up with Mr. Cozza of Cipriani. "It’s wonderful to show the industry what is happening to Wall Street," he said of the evening’s festivities. "We are thrilled to be part of the revitalization of a community. With Cipriani’s, now it’s a residential and social space. It’s the same experience as Grand Central or Times Square. Where we used to have prostitution, we have wax museums.”
But, what about the future? How is Cipriani dealing with the possibility of losing its liquor licenses?
"We’re handling business as usual and moving forward," he said, before abruptly stomping off.
This seemed to be the catering empire’s mantra for the evening.
"Did you really ask that?" said a shocked Florence Mauro, also of Cipriani. "It’s a non-issue."