Restaurants are notoriously risky investments, especially for a supermodel.
“I cannot come here,” Fernanda Motta told the Daily Transom the other night at Le 55 in the meatpacking district, “because I love Italian food.”
Despite the inherent danger—every carb-laden bite of pasta a potential career-ender for the slender, four-time Sports Illustrated bikini babe—Ms. Motta and her husband, Roger Rodriguez, remain partners in the renamed, revamped and relaunched restaurant, formerly known as Merkato 55, located at 55 Gansevoort Street. (The couple also owns a stake in two restaurants in her native Brazil, she noted. Any good? “Yeah, they’re pretty good, to be honest with you,” the none-too-modest model asserted.)
On Thursday night, May 28, the 5-foot-10 blue-eyed brunette celebrated her 28th birthday (“that doesn’t mean I’m old!” Ms. Motta insisted after sparkler-wielding servers presented her with a five-tiered cake) during an intimate dinner with friends at the balloon-strewn restaurant.
For the occasion, Ms. Motta wore sparkly Lorraine Schwartz-designed jewelry and a short white dress that slightly resembled a toga. (“What’s that?” she asked. “Like a Roman? Oh no! Don’t you like it?”)
The event doubled as a sort of coming-out party for the eatery’s newest chef, Philip Guardione, formerly of the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan.
A fashionable crowd, including fellow models Alessandra Ambrosio, Renata Klem and Julie Henderson, pecked at plates of sole with ratatouille, oyster risotto, and grilled cod with spinach, followed by a light dessert of pistachio cake with rasberry sauce.
Opened with much fanfare in Feburary 2008, the originally African-themed restaurant earned just a one-star review in The New York Times, eventually cut ties with its initial media-darling chef Marcus Samuelssen, and recently re-emerged as a popular boozy brunch spot.
“We have great PR people,” Ms. Motta explained of the eatery’s newfound daytime popularity. “Also, we have great DJs.”
Doesn’t she worry that moonlighting in the restaurant industry will ultimately ruin her slim figure?
“I try to come eat, like, maybe not too much,” she said. “Otherwise I eat it all!”
Her favorite indulgence?
“The pesto lasagna,” she said. “It is thrilling!”