“We named it Josephine after Napoleon’s wife,” says Angelina Herman, who is opening the café/bakery/wine bar with her mother, Maryse Gregorini; both are French. “She’s a symbol of French tradition but she was modern for her time, too. She was a businesswoman. That’s the image we want—a mix of traditional and modern.”
Josephine, located in Independence Plaza North, is soft-opening today. In concept—and to some degree, in execution—Josephine resembles the former Bouley Market/By the Ounce. For the time being, the restaurant is focusing on the café/bakery side of things, with the wine to come when the liquor license is approved. The southern half of the space is display cases filled with croissants, apple turnovers, and other pastries; there will also be baguettes and other breads, including—in a definite nod to the modern—bagels. Coffee comes from La Colombe. The menu shifts to lunch with “paninis, organic sandwiches, and soups,” says Angelina. “And we’ll have vegan foods, including desserts, because people asked us for them. And we’ll be as organic as possible. My mother eats organic at home.” The northern half of the room is a large bar and tables, with total seating for around 50.
Neither Maryse nor Angelina has restaurant experience. (Angelina, a student, will be applying to law school.) “We wanted to open a restaurant,” says Angelina, “and we wanted it to be downtown because it’s our favorite area.” They live in the Financial District but plan on moving to Tribeca. This space in particular was appealing because of the potential for lots of outdoor seating. It had previously been office space, says Angelina, and they did a gut renovation. The new look is very French—black-and-white tiles, tufted banquettes, chandeliers.
If this were France, dogs would be allowed inside—but you don’t have to be a budding law student to know how the health department feels about that. Instead, when the weather warms up, Maryse and Angelina plan on having a “dog valet,” with whom patrons can leave their dogs while they’re inside. And the bakery will sell dog biscuits, with proceeds going to an animal charity. “It’s so sad when dogs are tied up outside Whole Foods,” says Angelina.
Josephine is at 40 Harrison (at Greenwich).