Stuzzicheria debuts Friday—it’s on the northeast corner of Church and Walker, where Province used to be—and I got a sneak peek at last night’s pre-opening party.
The first thing to jump out at you is the size—or lack of it. Stuzzicheria is an offshoot of the 160-seat Bar Stuzzichini in the Flatiron District, but it will seat all of 50 (next spring it hopes to add sidewalk tables). Aren’t restaurateurs supposed to move the other direction, starting small then going big? “I’ve been doing this a long time,” said owner Gerard Renny (above left, with his son, Max, who’ll be overseeing Stuzzicheria). “And I’ve done big restaurants and small ones. I personally don’t like big restaurants. I’d rather have four small restaurants than one big one.” He went on to say that he sees Bar Stuzzichini as “the mothership,” spinning off a few smaller spaces around the city.
The first one is in Tribeca because he and his wife happened to be having dinner at Macao Trading Co. when they noticed that 305 Church was for rent. They had no idea that Masaharu Morimoto would be opening a restaurant next door: “I only found out when I showed up at the Community Board meeting about the liquor license and he was sitting next to me,” said Gerard.
The space is very simple, with a lot of wood and marble, all the better to show off the amazing streetscapes. There’s a bar against half of the back wall, and a counter along the southern window. They’re still putting the finishing touches on the room—in fact, when I asked to take a photo of Gerard and Max, I lost Gerard for five minutes as he looked for something to put on the empty shelf behind them. (That’s them in the photo at top.)
The chef, Mike Franzetti, has worked with Bar Stuzzichini chef Paul Di Bari since Bar Stuzzchini opened, and he had also worked at Maremma and Washington Park. The menu bears a resemblance to Bar Stuzzichini’s—heavy on small plates (stuzzichini roughly means “appetizers” in Italian)—with some detours. I’ll be back after the restaurant has opened to report on the food….
Besides dinner, Stuzzicheria will offer what Italians call aperitivo, sort of like happy hour; from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with every large draft beer or cocktail you get your choice of stuzzichini, and there’s no limit. The wine list, it bears mentioning, is entirely southern Italian. And sometime after Labor Day, lunch will be served.
Stuzzicheria is at 305 Church (between Walker and Lispenard); reservations are not accepted.