When one of New York’s most beloved restaurants closed during the throes of the pandemic in March 2020, the closure appeared to be permanent.
But the iconic Gotham (formerly Gotham Bar and Grill) is set to return later this year. Managing partner Bret Csencsitz announced plans for the restaurant’s return and reinvention, tentatively scheduled for November 2021, on the Gotham website. As part of this transformation, even the name of the restaurant was renamed.
He notes that Gotham’s “way back” is a “testament to the city from which it takes its name, a fictional city full of courage and determination.”
Shocking but not completely unexpected
Combining great food, courteous service and a beautiful setting, Gotham was a very popular meeting place for its affluent local clientele. Designer David Rockwell called it the “New York Living Room”. Tourists and families celebrating the holidays and milestone celebrations regularly made pilgrimages to the 12 East 12th Street Institution, coming from all corners of the city and the world.
While the shutdown seemed sudden and unexpected, it also made sense given the timing. Celebrity chef Alfred Portale, who had run Gotham’s cuisine for more than three decades, winning numerous accolades for his inventive New American cuisine, decided to step down and leave in 2019 (shortly thereafter he opened Portale, its namesake contemporary Italian restaurant in Chelsea.)
Given the uncertain future of fine dining in New York City, in general, the owners of Gotham, a restaurant in Greenwich Village for around 36 years, reluctantly concluded that they couldn’t afford to lose revenue for an indefinite period. of time. They felt that the business community could not resist the pandemic, Csencisitz says.
Managing Partner Bret Csencsitz’s success story in the industry also came to an abrupt end. Raised in the hotel ranks of a bar manager, he then led banquets at the Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel and was then appointed butler at Café Boulud. Joining the Gotham team in 2007, he oversaw a team of 100 employees that worked as smoothly as a philharmonic orchestra.
For Csencsitz and others working in Gotham, it was as if the ground had suddenly changed. “My wife and I couldn’t find a plan B that worked for us,” Cscencsitz says. “We had built a life in New York around the lives of our children, our creative community and Gotham,” he says.
Ahead of its opening in November, Forbes.com caught up with Csencsitz to find out what plans he and his partners have to reinvent Gotham:
Former Gotham pastry chef Ron Paprocki, a full member of the team since 2012, will take over the kitchen. Do you have any idea what the new menu will look like?
Bret Csencsitz: While a few items will pay homage to the iconic dishes Gotham is known for, Chef Paprocki has created his own menu. Our customers will recognize the spirit of Gotham in clean, complex and flavorful dishes that are also sustainably made.
With this in mind, our new Director of Sourcing works with the Chef to find the highest quality ingredients that deliver flavor and nutritional benefits, while ensuring best practices in breeding and sourcing of agricultural products and products. sustainable sea.
Gotham is known for its stunning interior decor and design that many have compared to movie set. What changes do you plan to make to the decor?
BEFORE CHRIST: Our intention was to strike an ideal balance, preserving the familiar in a way that allows past guests to revisit their memories while providing something new to enjoy for those who know and do not know the original space.
We want customers to feel like they are in a special, modern yet timeless place, as we always have been. We’re keeping the bones but celebrating the power of design with some exciting changes.
Thirty-six years ago, James Biber, a recent architecture graduate from Cornell University, led the design of Gotham under the direction of the architectural firm of Paul Segal. This time, Jim led the redesign under the umbrella of his own company, Biber Architects. He infused the update with as much intimate knowledge and affection as anyone could bring.
The Gotham Gallery at the far end of the bar will present 5-6 limited edition prints with sales going to revolving nonprofits, the first of those nonprofits, GROWNYC, to the board of directors of Bretserves. In the dining room, a dynamic exhibition of contemporary art will be curated by Emily Santangelo. This rotating exhibit will be constantly evolving like NYC.
The front bar area will be reinvented as a place that invites customers to relax and reflect in a neighborhood mini lounge and library with sofas and lounge chairs. Building on my long-standing love of books and literature, I asked Nancy Bass and The Strand Bookstore to take care of this area with recommended books on art, food, cooking, l news and more. We want to encourage customers to come often and stay for a while in this inviting new space and the welcoming atmosphere that reigns there.
It is a difficult time to open or reopen a business. Do you plan to be able to recruit and keep catering professionals?
BEFORE CHRIST: We live with challenges, like others. But to some extent I think we’re luckier. We attract both people who want to come back and others who want to join us for the first time, not only because of the excitement of our reopening, but also because we let people know how committed we are to create a stimulating work environment.
We work hard to create a business where employees feel valued, thrive, and have a stake in our success. After everything we’ve been through it’s exciting to still see a lot of people who really love the restaurant job and can’t wait to do what restaurateurs do, put on a show!
What was your “free time” like emotionally?
BEFORE CHRIST: Thank you for requesting this. It’s crazy to think about emotions these days, but isn’t that what life is made of? From the moment we closed Gotham, I was working to reopen it. So I had two trains running simultaneously since March 2020: slow it down and reopen it.
I was at home with my family and / or commuting between New York City and the Minneapolis area, where my in-laws live. They graciously opened their house to us. Like most people, my days were filled with uncertainty and fueled by need. We’ve been able to stay afloat thanks to our community efforts, the artisanal Gotham line of chocolates created by Chef Paprocki and I, and the Oregon pinot noir we make.
That said, time has served us well to allow us to measure our decisions and be as intentional as possible, as we shape our next chapter.
Realizing how lucky we were, we embraced the adventure of our stay and, after six months, returned to New York City with a healthy dose of hope. In the year that has passed since we ticked off some benchmarks to reach the present moment.
Countless friends have come out of the woods to offer investments, work and advice, as well as many who have simply answered my phone calls, offering strength and support on this odyssey, ”he wrote. “When the doors reopen this fall, we will have many, many people to thank. They know who they are and are now part of our DNA.
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