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Seasoned restaurateurs plan to open their doors from mid-June despite pandemic challenges
By Tina Traster
Americans have a tradition – when the chips fell, they bet on themselves. That’s exactly what four seasoned restaurateurs in the Village of Piermont are doing as each prepares to open restaurant concepts in the coming weeks.
All say they are confident and optimistic, despite the challenges restaurants have faced during the pandemic, and more recently with labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and inflation. In part, each echoes the sentiment that “this is what they do”, but they also believe in Piermont, which has a unique set of characteristics that make it an ideal culinary hub. Although four restaurants have folded in the past two years, the food scene is about to get a solid boost.
The owners of a group of Irish pubs in Manhattan have purchased the former 14 & Hudson at 457 Piermont Avenue. Doug Nguyen, former owner of Wasabi in Nyack, opens Sabi Sushi at 506 Piermont Avenue, the former location of Moroccan restaurant Mazagan, and before that Seasons of Piermont and Xavier’s. The team behind Burger Loft and District 96 in New City will open a craft brewery. And a renowned chef is opening a restaurant in the historic Gerhardt’s Garage, in the heart of the city, at 505 Piermont Avenue.
These two years have been difficult, but I am convinced that the restaurant’s golden age is not over. Never bet against New York. It always comes back, every time,” Chief Iannuccilli said.
The former garage site is set to transform into Otto’s Full Service, a new 130-seat American restaurant that will hedge its bets with a diversity of offerings, including an extensive artisan menu, take-out, space events and special events.
“I think having four restaurants opening at the same time is a win for everyone,” said chef Phil Iannuccilli, who most recently worked as executive chef at Greenwich Country Club in Connecticut and had an impressive and traveling career in the States. United and overseas. “It will get people out. These two years have been difficult, but I am convinced that the restaurant’s golden age is not over. Never bet against New York. It always comes back, every time.
The former 1920s gas station, and later auto service garage, was purchased by David Kaliff in 2018 for $1,200,000, according to public records. The team hopes to breathe new life into the building – and the village – but the name is a nod to its past use and Iannuccilli says the design and ambiance will pay homage to its history.
“We hope to capture and adopt the ambiance of the original building,” he said. “We keep the large garage doors. The menu itself is a celebration of American cuisine but with a multicultural approach. And we’re going to put our name on a sign at the Shell station.
Like Otto’s, the veteran trio that owns New City’s Burger Loft, District 96, Blue Fig and Bardonia’s Piata Greek Kitchen, are rehabilitating the long-closed 474 Piermont Avenue near Village Hall to open a second brewery in the District 96.
“We gutted everything,” co-owner John Potenza said. “We redid the plumbing, the electricity and the patio.”
Potenza, who acknowledged the challenge restaurateurs have faced in recent years, said: “The key is to keep doing what you’re doing.”
The team plans to replicate the District 96 concept in the 600 square foot space with small plates, seafood, fresh cocktails, craft beer and wine. The group is betting on Piermont’s seasonal crowds that gravitate to the quaint village for its shopping, food scene and beautiful location on the Hudson River. Potenza expects the 400-square-foot outdoor patio to be a draw for the village.
“It’s a small restaurant with a big patio,” he says. “We know times have been tough, but we expect a good reception. Everyone has been hit hard but we are not panicking. Things always happen. We have been through Covid. We just have to work harder.
As the world enters the third year of the ongoing pandemic, restaurateurs continue to adapt to do business in the face of an avalanche of challenges ranging from labor to inflation and variants of Covid. As sales rebound, a report from the National Restaurant Association suggests it will be a year or more before conditions return to normal as tens of thousands of restaurants have closed – some permanently.
While the group’s data shows that more than half of all operators believe it will take at least a year for business to return to normal, most operators, from fine dining to quick service, said they expect sales to hold or increase this year, cautiously optimistic.
Anne Reilly and her family have run a group of Irish pubs in New York, including Connelly’s in Times Square, for 30 years. The family business closed a downtown Connelly location due to the pandemic. But they’re on the way with the opening of Reilly’s Public House at 457 Piermont Avenue, an Irish pub “with an upscale flair,” Reilly said.
The Reillys, who said they bought the building and former restaurant for an undisclosed price, were drawn to Piermont because it reminds them of an Irish village where they spend time during summers in County Galway.
“It’s always been in the back of our minds to open a restaurant in Piermont,” said Reilly, who lives in Norwood, NJ. “It has been a massive struggle to navigate the pandemic. Reports say 25% of all Irish pubs have closed in New York. But we feel Piermont well. He has a unique character and personality. It’s great news that all of these restaurants are opening at the same time. Business brings business.
Of the four newcomers, Nguyen has endured the worst pandemic ordeals but is nonetheless undeterred. The Palisades resident said he closed four Manhattan establishments in Madison Square in the Financial District and two food halls at the Plaza Hotel.
“In the city, the workers have not yet returned,” he said. “It was a big financial blow. But I am confident to open a restaurant in Piermont. That’s what I know. That’s what I do well.
The chef/owner points out that Piermont is a beautiful, historic town with strong seasonal crowds that gravitate to the waterfront for evening dining and strolling.
Piermont Mayor Bruce Tucker agrees.
“The Village is a foodie mecca, it’s a destination for people from Manhattan, Westchester and New Jersey,” Tucker said. “We rely on this reputation. We see four skilled restaurateurs who truly believe they have a great idea and think Piermont is a good place to try it.