Copacabana originally opened in 1940 and would eventually welcome notable performances from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke — several of whom would go on to record live albums at the venue. The iconic nightclub was one of the early victims of the pandemic and closed its Times Square location on 8th Avenue and W47th Street in May 2020.
But music and passion has brought longtime Copacabana owner John Juliano and nightlife impresario Ruben Rubin Cabrera together for a triumphant return of The Copacabana. After founding owner Jules Podell died in 1973, the club shut down for several years, reopening in 1976 under the leadership of Juliano. The serial nightclub owner told W42ST while sitting at a booth in a midtown diner: “It was my pet, the Copacabana was my pet and still is.” He rebuilt an environment where “people started coming in from the old days — Desi Arnaz, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett — I met all of those people,” says Juliano.
This melding of 40s Golden Age mystique and 70s hazy, boisterous discotheque was forever immortalized in Barry Manilow’s 1978 smash-hit Copacabana (At the Copa). The song, a fictional, three-act tale of one showgirl’s descent into madness over her murdered lover, hit the Billboard Top Ten in 1978 and would go on to be adapted into a full-length TV movie musical and cult hit stage production.
It was within this world of glitz, glamor, and Copacabana showgirls that Cabrera first fell in love with nightlife. He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and found himself working as a teenager at a catering hall on East 60th Street in 1979. The owner used to go to the Copa on Tuesday nights, “and one Tuesday he invited me to go with him. “He said, ‘Let me take you downtown and show you the real club scene’,” Cabrera recalls. He was only 14, “I was a tall, skinny kid who looked older than I was,” and the owner “bought me my first suit” to wear to the club.
Cabrera put on the suit and snuck into the Copa, where he was smitten by the big band and the bright, noisy, world of nightlife. “The Copa girls were my first love — I fell in love with them, I fell in love with the bartender, I fell in love with the club scene and I have been in it ever since.”
Cabrera had been running the venue as Casa 51 up to the onset of COVID, now he’s thrilled to be bringing the vibrant energy of the Copa back to Hell’s Kitchen. “I grew up spending a lot of time going to every bar and restaurant in Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen, and spending lots of sleepless nights here,” he says
During his over 45 year tenure, Juliano has run nightclubs throughout Hell’s Kitchen including Copacabana venues on 11th Avenue at W34th and W57th Street as well as the famed Red Parrot and Emerald City. He hosted the Copa’s most recent location in Times Square, where he expanded the club’s reach by positioning it close to bustling tourist hotspots. A stroke and the COVID-19 shutdown forced him to step back, but he has since recovered and is excited to bring back “Latin dancing — there’s no place to go to do salsa and merengue, this will be it.”
This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "The Copacabana Returns to New York in a Glittering Disco Revival — Who Could Ask for More?”
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, which opened in the late summer of 2014, pairs ease with elegance as a welcome addition to 51st Street. “We live in a very fast-paced world. ” In midtown Manhattan, these words resonate. But spoken by Aldo Sohm, seated at a table in his eponymous wine bar, they seem incongruous. “The idea is basically that when you walk in here, you walk into my living room. To me, it’s always important that you be in a place where you feel comfortable. ”Sohm continues his role as wine director at Le Bernardin, the four-star restaurant located across the 6½ Avenue pedestrian plaza. At the wine bar, however, he and Le Bernardin’s co-owners, Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert, have created a setting distinct from the formal restaurants in Manhattan, in its simplicity and lack of pretense. To be clear, it shares the elegance and attention to quality of its neighbors. But upon entering, an open arrangement of sofas beckons patrons to sit down. Sohm has noticed guests who arrived separately conversing across tables - sometimes even discussing their choice in wine. And wine is the focus at Aldo Sohm. Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin’s acclaimed chef, oversees the food menu; so, whether wine accompanies lunch, dinner, or a snack, it promises to impress. Guests can order bites to complement a glass of wine, like a grilled foie gras “lollipop” or a warm skewer of baby beets. Shareables include a whole baked cauliflower and a plate of Murray’s cheese with a Maison Kayser baguette. Sohm emphasizes the flexibility of the experience. If not in the lounge area, there are tall square tables for seating. The thick oak “sommelier table” incorporated into the bar seats guests on both sides, ensuring that no one is excluded from conversation. Sohm chose these arrangements intentionally. The wine bar endeavors to be unpretentious, relaxing and fun. Evoking this sensation, the architectural firm Bentel & Bentel incorporated clean lines and bold color in designing the interior. Sohm and his co-owners deliberated considerably in choosing the art in their “living room. ” Ample shelves extend to the double height ceiling, featuring artifacts meaningful to Sohm. Having grown up in Austria, Sohm points out, “I like things very very clean, very European. I like colors on top of it. ” A stack of Interior Design magazines becomes a design object itself as a cube of rainbow spines. The curves of miniature Panton S-chairs, each a different color, mirror the charred wood molds of the delicately hand-blown Zalto glasses in which each wine is served. Sohm is the brand ambassador for Zalto, an Austrian-based glassware manufacturer. To learn more about the varied wine offerings, visitors can reserve the tasting room. Aerial photographs of wine growing regions flank the eight-person table, allowing the sommelier to incorporate a visual element and story of provenance to the tasting. Sohm - once designated the “Best World Sommelier” by the Worldwide Sommelier Association - maintains humility despite his accomplishments. He wants the wine bar to be just as down to earth; an antidote to a demanding day, it exudes precision and sophistication.
While the lineups at Radio City Music Hall have changed dramatically over the years, the "Showplace of the Nation" has long been at the center of the city's entertainment scene. Opened to the public in 1932, the Art Deco building, with almost six thousand seats, was initially intended to "house high-class variety entertainment. " However, the space was later converted to a movie hall, with films accompanied by stage shows. This lasted until 1979 when, for a variety of reasons, Radio City began transitioning into a concert hall. Besides consistently booking some of music's hottest stars, Radio City has also hosted numerous award shows, including The Grammys and The Tony Awards and is the home to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes, a tradition that commenced in 1933.
Saar, which translates to “the essence of something, ” has a double meaning for Pastry Chef Surbhi Sahni. It represents the essence of Indian food, as well as the essence of her relationship with her husband, Chef Hemant Mathur. Although Surbhi has been in the industry with Hemant for years, the two have not worked together on a daily basis since their days at their Michelin-starred restaurants, Devi and Tulsi, both of which are now closed. Saar represents their fresh start while also staying true to their culture and roots. When Surbhi and Hemant met in 2000, Hemant was teaching Indian cooking classes at New York University as he was getting ready to open Tamarind on Park Avenue. Surbhi joined the opening team at Tamarind, designing the tearoom and promoting quick lunches. He went on to operate five different spaces, including Sahib, Haldi, Chote Nawab, Malai Marke, and Chola, while Surbhi helped manage events. During that time, she also launched Bittersweet NYC, a pastry business focusing on wedding cakes and Indian style desserts for larger corporate events. Surbhi’s relationship with cooking is unlike the typical love story of most chefs. Her experience in the kitchen started at the age of ten in New Delhi as more of a responsibility and chore when her mother’s health declined. She explained to members of the Manhattan Sideways team, “It was not something I could ever imagine myself doing for the rest of my life. I wanted to do art and write and paint or sing and dance - every other activity in the world but cook. ” Notwithstanding these sentiments, Surbhi was encouraged by her father to take a job in hotel management in New Delhi. She was part of the Sheraton Group’s revolutionary all-female kitchen and restaurant at a time when there were only approximately twenty female chefs in all of New Delhi. At age twenty-five, however, Surbhi chose to move to the United States to pursue her Masters in Anthropology and Food at New York University. Despite never getting to study writing and painting at university, these endeavors have always been an integral part of Surbhi’s life. Her father is an accomplished artist exhibiting in both India and the US. Today, she is proud of her own teenage daughter, Soumyaa. "She is the true artist of the family. " When entering the dining room on 51st Street, Surbhi’s artistic aptitude is obvious. The modern space is both clean and dramatic, with natural light and bright pops of color. Saar was a particularly exciting project for her, as she was given free rein in its design. In a mere five months, she turned what she described as a dingy, confused room into an open, tasteful dining space. Saar has also allowed Surbhi and Hemant to completely reinvent their menu. They focus on regional food, staying authentic to the specific flavors of each area. For example, Surbhi told us that the Turbuj Pachadi - a tomato and watermelon salad with a fennel and ginger dressing - is a Rajasthani staple, as watermelon is a fruit that is readily available there, and is usually consumed with freshly baked bread. She has also made an effort to challenge conventional conceptions of Indian cuisine. The Mango Coconut Soup is a light and sweet palate opener, proving that Indian food is not always too spicy or a combination of too many flavors. She believes that Indian food is actually very demarcated in the way flavors are put together. “Just how in Japanese food they have many different layers of flavors they add as they’re cooking, we do the same with Indian food. ” While cooking can serve as a creative outlet, Surbhi still tries to write and paint whenever she can. In ending our conversation, Surbhi emphasized the importance of food’s role in building a community - something she looks forward to creating on West 51st Street.