Sartiano’s, the highly anticipated restaurant from prominent tastemaker Scott Sartiano’s Bond Hospitality, opens at SoHo’s Mercer Hotel on Thursday. And like at Bond Hospitality’s Zero Bond, the private membership club that’s been frequented by Eric Adams, Tom Brady and Kim Kardashian, the focus is on making a lasting impression in downtown New York.
Sartiano believes there would be no point in opening this Italian restaurant, which channels his family’s Naples roots and boasts acclaimed chef Alfred Portale as its culinary director, if he didn’t see the potential to create a “legacy” here.
“If I don’t think something can be iconic, I don’t want to do it,” Sartiano told Observer. “I want to build something that becomes part of the fabric of New York City. I don’t open things just to open things.”
Portale and executive chef Chris Lewnes, with input from Sartiano, have put together a menu with both Italian classics and Italian-American riffs.
Meals at Sartiano’s can start with caviar cannolis, yellowfin tuna crudo and fritto misto, before main courses like paccheri with Sunday sauce (short rib, sausage and housemade meatballs), veal Milanese, chicken Parm and deeply marbled, olive-fed wagyu porterhouses. Guests who want lighter dishes have options including scallop crudo, artichoke salad, branzino, salmon and mushroom lasagna.
The sizable restaurant can accommodate about 130 people. That isn’t counting the small upstairs cafe for walk-ins and more casual meals, with pizza and pasta. There are plans to put a cart with gelato and Italian ices on the corner of Prince and Mercer Street, and Sartiano’s is also serving the lobby and guest rooms at the Mercer Hotel.
If you’re wondering whether the hospitality mogul, who previously co-founded hot spots such as 1 OAK, Butter and The Darby, wants his new restaurant to morph into a nightclub at certain moments, the answer is an emphatic no.
“No, never,” the 48-year-old Sartiano said. “I’m too old for that. I go to bed too early. I can’t stand the loud music. I sound like an old grandpa when people start asking about nightlife. Now I’m like, who puts a DJ in a restaurant?”
There’s a different type of glamorous downtown history Sartiano wants to celebrate at the Mercer Hotel, in a restaurant space that previously housed Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen. Under the leadership of both the revered Vongerichten and his free-spirited protégé Kerry Simon, that destination became a downtown fixture that merged top-tier food with a lively scene.
“It’s a corner in New York that’s like the epicenter of downtown New York, not just for today but probably for the past 25 years, since the hotel opened and the restaurant opened,” Sartiano said of his restaurant’s storied location. “So there’s the awareness of what’s happened in the last 25 years, and trying to thread the needle of keeping the past alive while making something new for the next 25 years.”
Fittingly, Sartiano’s already hosted Chanel’s Met Gala afterparty this year. The first party ever at the Mercer, Sartiano points out, was a Chanel event that took place just before the hotel opened in 1997.
Three-time James Beard Award winner Portale, who ran Gotham Bar & Grill for 35 years and now serves Italian cuisine at the eponymous Portale Restaurant, also knows a few things about downtown New York’s history.
Sartiano’s, which officially opens on Thursday, June 15, is a restaurant that’s simultaneously about Italian-American nostalgia and a new path forward. The restaurant balances comfort and refinement, as Sartiano thinks fondly about formative taste memories like the meatballs and veal Milanese his mom made. Sartiano has a fondness for sausage and peppers, which resulted in Portale and Lewnes creating a pork chop dish with peppers, onions and a similar flavor profile. The forthcoming street cart with gelato and Italian ices will remind Sartiano of the joy he felt when his parents, who are both from Brooklyn, used to take him out for dessert.
Sartiano is known for exclusive venues, and there’s little doubt that his new restaurant will be a tough reservation, and that its private dining room will be in high demand. But this is also a hotel restaurant with plans to open for breakfast and lunch later this month, so he’s thinking about how to balance exclusivity with accessibility.
“We want to design something that’s a fit for the most critical New York foodie, but also could cater to the Parisian tourist who’s shopping in the neighborhood, “ Sartiano said.
“There’s a very elevated ambiance, from the Carrara marble bar to the wine lockers. It’s open to the public, but we’re still going to curate the crowd. If you’re a Zero Bond member or friends or family of mine, you’re definitely expecting to frequent the restaurant. So it will be as exclusive as a restaurant can be, but we also have the cafe for people who don’t have reservations.”
And being in SoHo, where people go out later for dinner (even if Sartiano himself would prefer being asleep), means that more guests can experience Sartiano’s. This is a neighborhood where you can eat well and soak up an energetic vibe at 11 p.m., whether you’re at the new Torrisi (arguably the city’s hottest restaurant), Balthazar or Blue Ribbon.
“I’ve been in New York for over 30 years,” Sartiano said. “SoHo is always the place to go late-night for dinner, for fine dining. It’s funny. As I’ve gotten older, I like to go to dinner at 7. But I remember always going downtown for dinner, and 9:30 and 10 o’clock was normal. The Mercer Kitchen was almost like a 24-hour-a-day restaurant. It was busy all the time, busy late. We definitely want to encourage people to come have later dinners here. We’re going to stay open as long as we’re busy. I definitely expect to have 10, 10:30, 11 o’clock seatings.”