In Vino Denaro! Grieco and Canora on New York’s Wine Bar Boom

Location: How did you guys decide to be partners?

Mr. Grieco: My wife.

Mr. Canora: Well, we worked together at Gramercy Tavern for a while, and then when I left to open Craft, his wife, Katie, was the opening [general manager] of Craft. So, she and I had a close relationship, because she worked the front [of the house] and I was in the back. I was chomping at the bit to do my own thing, and she obviously knew that he had it in the back of his mind also.

Mr. Grieco: Marco had his own restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard. So, he had been a restaurateur already. And I grew up in a restaurant family, so I had been my own boss. It was natural for the two of us. I think we recognized when we worked with each other at Gramercy that we were both dedicated and fixated upon success, quality, all of those things. And so it took my wife saying, ‘You guys have similar ethics, why don’t you get together? You both come from an Italian background, you’ve worked with each other.’ It was perfect! Whatever success we’ve achieved, it’s because we have this long history of working together. I mean, this relationship should have split up about, what, six times?

Mr. Canora [laughing]: Eight times

Mr. Grieco: No, six outright divorces and a lot of small squabbles.

What do you argue about? Bad food-and-wine pairings?

Mr. Grieco: Oh, if it was only that, please!

Mr. Canora: We’ll never argue over that, not that kind of stuff. It’s more business kind of stuff.

Mr. Grieco: When it comes to the kitchen, I’ve got nothing to say.

Mr. Canora: That’s the thing—our faith in each other. Like, when it comes to wine and wine pairing, I’ve never had a gripe with it and never will. I hope he would say the same thing about the food. But it’s the other stuff. You know, he’s a wine guy who’s in love with wine. And I’m a food guy who’s in love with food. Neither one of us are real savvy businessmen. We’ve been on this real rough bell curve of learning the business. That’s where the arguments come in. I have no doubt about his wine abilities. Unfortunately, our worlds have become much bigger than that.

Do you guys ever compete as to who can get the most receipts; I mean, bar versus food receipts?

Mr. Canora: No, we never do.

Mr. Grieco: The great thing about this business is that you get to dabble in a lot of fields to put this together. You open your own restaurant, you are an architect, you are a designer, you are doing food and wine and service, you are an artist, you’re involved in the music. It’s just a whole bunch of fields, and to expect partners to agree? It’s like, how long did we debate about the napkin for this place?

What was the winning napkin?

Mr. Grieco: Well, it came down to price. I wanted us to go and buy our own special napkin for this place. He’s like, ‘Listen, just use a goddamn white napkin and be done with it.’ I mean, you sweat every single decision.

Well, it must be functioning on some level.

Mr. Grieco: There’s no more dysfunction in our relationship than there is in a marriage.

Do you guys celebrate anniversaries?

Mr. Canora: No.

Mr. Greico: Yes, we do!

Mr. Canora: Well, of the restaurants we do.

Mr. Grieco: But when Marco and I first met? No.

Let’s talk about location. Why did you decide to open [the restaurant] Hearth here [at the corner of First Avenue and East 12th Street], and why are you now opening Terroir right down the street [on 12th]. I mean, this is the East Village—not exactly the easiest place to operate these days.

Mr. Canora: When we signed the lease for this place five years ago, we caught the real estate market in the East Village at the very last little moment of affordable rents. We got very lucky. I think we both agree it was a great deal for this space.

How big is this space?

Mr. Grieco: Three thousand square feet.

In Vino Denaro! Grieco and Canora on New York’s Wine Bar Boom