“I wanted to open my version of an Italian diner,” said the restauranteur Pietro Quaglia. He was leading me down a succulent-lined staircase just before we stepped inside his entirely pink restaurant on Elizabeth Street.
Benvenuto a Pietro Nolita, the brainchild of Quaglia, an effortlessly charismatic, 37-year-old from Milan, and his Italian/Ethiopian partner-in-crime, Mina Soliman, who happens to be the former maître d of that other New York eatery that’s popular with the fashion set, Indochine. Not since Julian Schnabel's Palazzo Chupi has there been such a shamelessly hot pink concoction in lower Manhattan.
With just twenty-eight seats, Pietro Nolita, which opens this week, already shows signs of becoming the hot spot du jour this coming New York Fashion Week, with a host of fashionistas like W's Giovanna Battaglia getting early previews - her husband, Oscar Engelbert, even got a drink named in his honor - and fashion labels queuing up to throw dinners, though Quaglia won't dish any names just yet.
From the walls, to the plates and bar stools, everything inside Pietro's is bubblegum pink, save for a few house plants and the vintage copper sugar tins that line any unclaimed shelving space. The custom-made design-standout is the product of hours spent scouring eBay, vintage markets, and even Mexico, where Quaglia found the perfect pink tiles to line the bathroom.
The pink theme extends beyond the design – Quaglia plans to make pink cocktails and, once he perfects the recipe, pink tiramisu. “Real men wear pink,” Quaglia asserted of the color that played a significant part in his Italian upbringing, frequenting small, brightly-colored port towns as a child. And of course, Quaglia's Italian heritage has found its way into the menu as well. His mother, Patrizia Ferrario, even came in from Italy to add her masterful touch. “The chef has her approval,” Quaglia joked of Ferrario, who lent them her secret pasta alla carbonara recipe, which will be his weekend brunch specialty.
Unlike typical Italian cuisine that leaves you feeling heavy and horizontal, Pietro Nolita offers a reprieve. “You’re not going to go home and have nightmares because you ate pounds of butter and cream, we cook with good ingredients, and light oil,” he said of his rotating fare of locally-sourced salads, meat, and pasta. He also has a staunch commitment to serving seasonal produce. “You aren’t going to have light vegetables in the winter time, you’ll have something heartier, like polenta, broccoli, or squash.” Quaglia, who has called Nolita home for over a decade, wants his eatery to be the neighborhood go-to spot. “From old lady Maria who lives around the corner, to the hip fashionista, to the hipster with the pink hair, everyone is welcome” he explained as we wrapped up our tour. “I wanted the chance to create something concrete in the 10012, leave a mark in my neighborhood.”
The fluorescent neon sign suspended from a pink pole on Elizabeth Street
Casual for breakfast and lunch, but get in line now; officially, dinner service begins on September 15, and they don't take reservations.
Special New York Fashion Week Agenda
Opening exclusively for breakfast just in time for NYFW, Pietro’s will be the go-to spot to grab an espresso before shows.
Expect a who's who of fashion personalities and Italians. Lots of Italians.
Order the house’s signature cocktail, “The Pietro,” a mix of Aperol, vodka, rosé champagne, topped off with soda and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Or try the “Oscarito,” (named after Oscar Engelbert, his best friend who is also Ms. Battaglia’s husband), a tequila-based mix of mezcal, lime, blood orange, and garnished with thyme.
Consider it an open format playlist - from Luciano Pavarotti to gangster rap.
Pietro Nolita, 174 Elizabeth St, New York, New York 10012. Check www.Pietronolita.com for opening day updates.
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