In this great dining city of ours, barely a day passes without news of an exciting restaurant opening, a devastating closing, or a groundbreaking, must-try dish. That’s why we’re keeping you apprised of the industry’s most noteworthy bits and bites — from Le Cirque’s celeb chef coup, to John DeLucie’s diner takeover.
Empire Strikes Back: No one would ever finger John DeLucie as a short order cook; having famously truffle-ized mac and cheese, and made his name at see-and-be-seen hotspots, such as Lion, Crown and The Waverly Inn. Yet, he’s the latest in a string of high profile restaurateurs to try their hand at reviving the iconic Empire Diner, recently rejuvenated by Amanda Freitag. In collaboration with the Cafeteria crew, DeLucie intends to launch the chrome-plated corner space by spring, with “classic American fare” like burgers, short rib, pastas and steaks. Just don’t hold your breath for truffled mac and cheese.
Seeing Double: With more than enough real estate to work with, Mario Batali’s block-long behemoth, La Sirena, is preparing to become two restaurants in one! Taking a page from their Casa Mono/Bar Jamon setup, B&B Hospitality is transforming a section of the sprawling Italian eatery into a breezy tapas bar, featuring an extensive sherry selection and gin and tonic program as well as a menu executed by one of the group’s longtime chef consiglieres; Andy Nusser or Anthony Sasso.
Celeb Circus: After an exceedingly bumpy year (maestro Sirio Maccioni was sidelined due to injury, and management came under fire for sexual harassment and wage violations), the venerable Le Cirque is looking to rebound, and they’ve brought another industry veteran — Ouest’s Tom Valenti — along for the ride. Just as with Bill Telepan, going from owner to employee is a surprise move; especially since he’ll be sharing executive chef duties with Amanda Freitag.
Sweet Score: Hearth may have lightened up its menu, but that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned dessert. In fact, chef/owner Marco Canora managed to woo none other than Karen DeMasco (one of the few, bonafide names in the pastry world) to come out of retirement and oversee sweets, such as apple cider donuts, maple panna cotta and cinnamon rolls, made with alternative sugars, hand-milled flours, grass-fed dairy and local grains.
Flying High: While we rarely venture out to Jersey, Newark Airport has become an improbable destination unto itself; and not just for people catching planes. The veritable culinary hub already boasts projects from Alex Guarnaschelli, Alain Ducasse, Dale Talde and Mario Carbone, and now it’s attracted veggie queen Amanda Cohen as well, whose new Terminal C venture, Thyme, is a beacon for meat-freers; offering up grilled romesco steak with kale, sunchoke ratatouille and purple yam ‘fried rice.’