Every season the tidal event that is Fashion Week spills over into seemingly every aspect of New York life, flooding through the city’s nightlife regime. The best place to witness the onslaught—the front seat, as it were—is the maitre d’ podium at Lincoln, Nick Valenti’s excellent new restaurant adjacent to the shows at Lincoln Center. We caught up with man of the house Paolo Novello to talk about the week’s most fashionable diners, and the ways he and executive chef Jonathan Benno (formerly of Per Se and The French Laundry) are accommodating them.
How is Fashion Week filling up the room?
We opened up the restaurant four months ago, so we missed the September Fashion Week last year—this is our first full one—and people are walking in for regular a la carte lunch and dinner. Mostly lunch. And the other way they are filling up the restaurant is private events. Tonight, as you and I are speaking, G-Star bought out the entire restaurant.
What are you serving them?
It’s a reception, and our menu normally features contemporary Italian food, so it’s a menu of classic Italian canapés: stuffed olives with sausage; arancini, you know, the saffron scented rice croquettes traditional of Sicily; prosciutto from San Daniele wrapped around homemade focaccia. We have probably twelve bite-sized canapés. Then we are doing eggplant parmigiana, green spinach veal and pork lasagna, also braised short ribs… They’re also going to have little chocolate cakes with Italian liqueur, made with amaro. Those are happening all week.
Who else are you hosting, or am I allowed to ask?
We are doing a party for Pantene, the hair company. Marc Jacobs is doing a Q & A here Tuesday afternoon, so American Express bought out half of the restaurant for half a day.
When people are coming in between shows, popping in for a quick bite, what is everyone ordering? What’s the most popular dish?
At lunch they tend to be light. Either a seafood pasta or more appetizers. We do a mozzarella en carozza—it comes dressed with a variety of wild endives and chicory and lettuces. It’s a great warm salad.
Is the crowd at Fashion Week different from your normal clientele?
Yes. Number one you see that there is more attention on how one dresses, and on the overall look. Normally our client may be going to the opera, and so they arrive in a big gown and a tuxedo. Because here we do not have a dress code, you can have a Fashion Week guest and the guest next to them in G-Star jeans.
What do you wear to work?
I’m as conservative as they come, Chris. I am a three-piece, single-vent, dark charcoal gray suit man. I have five of those.
Who makes it?
It’s my tailor back home in Italy. It’s not very expensive so it works out well for me.
Well bravo to the bespoke maitre d’, and buon appetito.