I walked into Avant Garden and had the pleasure of sitting down with the owner himself, Ravi DeRossi. His name might seem familiar as he has become synonymous with trendy New York bars including Death and Co. and Amor Y Armargo on 6th Street. Avant Garden, a vegan restaurant that features only vegetables, is a jewel that he has added to his lengthy list of other establishments. Upon entering, the design was what captured my attention first. Every aspect is painstakingly selected by Ravi himself and this is hardly surprising given his background as a painter. He told me that he studied under his friend and mentor Igor Gorsky, an influential Greek painter in the abstract expressionist movement. Now, Ravi says, “opening bars and restaurants is my canvas. ”When I asked what was the recipe for his success, he said it was a lot of “dumb luck” and that he is “naturally suited to working a lot. ” In fact, he quoted Thomas Edison saying that it is “10% inspiration, 90% perspiration, ” and that his hard work has certainly gone a long way. Ravi opened his first business, Bourgeois Pig on East 7th Street (now on Macdougal), out of necessity. He was not making enough money as a painter to support himself. “I didn’t know how to do anything but paint and write, ” he said, and he loved to drink, so opening a wine bar seemed like a perfect plan. His idea was to use money from Bourgeois Pig to live off of and to paint in his free time. However, he found that it was “so much fun” running a wine bar that he kept on going. As for his other restaurants and bars, he told me, "I’ll be sleeping and something will come to my mind. ” These late-night inspirations have resulted in fifteen different places throughout New York and Brooklyn, as well as plans to open an Avant Garden in Los Angeles. The idea for a vegan restaurant has long been in the back of Ravi’s mind, inspired by a trip to a Buddhist Temple in India and his own on and off vegan lifestyle. In addition to opening Avant Garden, Ravi, a self-described “big animal rights guy, ” has jointly launched a non-profit called BEAST, which stands for Benefits to End Animal Suffering Today. Ravi only does things that he wants to do. His passion shines through every single detail of his restaurant, and he even went as far as saying that this is the place of which he is most proud. He is pleased with the fact that it is 100% cruelty free, “except to these guys, ” he said gesturing to the staff busily preparing the restaurant for that evening's diners. They all laughed. This is a place of great camaraderie, where there are none of the fake meats that are found at most vegan food spots, and the atmosphere is chic and warmly lit. When I was there, in the fall of 2015, the restaurant had only been open for about a month, and already Avant Garden had a crew of loyal followers, a testament to the menu. Its menu was created by Andrew D’Ambrosi, who moved to France after being Avant Garden's head chef during the restaurant's first few years. Ravi explained that he had originally found Andrew on Craigslist and hired him to work at his restaurant, Cienfuegos. When the itch came to open up a new place, Bergen Hill, in Brooklyn, Ravi began the search for a head chef. They used Andrew’s kitchen at Cienfuegos to test out the world-renowned chefs who wished to head the restaurant. Ravi shared with me that Andrew came to him and requested, "'Before you hire [anyone] let me make a tasting for you'... He blew thirty chefs out of the water. ” Andrew spent two years making vegan dishes at Bergen Hill and testing them as specials. "Each of his dishes is great, " Ravi proclaimed, adding "When I am at home, I dream of the Tomato Jam Toast. "
Confectionery is the brainchild of two passionate vegan chefs who owned separate bakeries in New Paltz, NY. Lagusta Yearwood began Lagusta’s Luscious as a boutique vegan chocolate shop, and Maresa Volante's Sweet Mresa specialized in macarons. They met, found that they shared a passion for sweets and vegan cooking, and Confectionery was born! Nowadays, the East Village shop serves a wide clientele, from random passersby following the sweet aromas to the front door, to avid cult fans in the city on vacation, and, of course, to those who either prefer or require a vegan diet. Confectionery is a space of inclusivity and giving, as evidenced by the prominent “Mitzvah Wall” that greeted me when I entered. The idea is to pay it forward: buy a cookie and put a note on the wall for someone to reward. When speaking with the counter server, a young woman who had been a fan of Lagusta’s Luscious for many years before working at Confectionery, she told me that she finds peace and comfort in the shop. “It's a nice, welcoming space where we can heal ourselves. ”
What a find... down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar. " Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization. ”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out! ), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts... and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan. Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems, ” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.
The Village Party Store, also known as Balloon Shop NYC and Halloween Headquarters, is a one-stop shop bursting with festive finds. From Christmas baubles to Pride parade supplies, this humble hole-in-the-wall has everything needed to throw a bash to remember. Inside, the shop feels like a dollar store, with packed aisles full of plates, cups, banners, costumes and more. But the real gems are the memories made here. Since 1993, New Yorkers have flocked to this party supply store to prepare for life's celebrations, big and small. For many, it's a family tradition to pick up graduation balloons or new year's hats. For others, it's the perfect place to find a last-minute baby shower gift or bridal shower decor. What makes the Village Party Store stand out is its focus on customer service. The knowledgeable staff help each customer find what they need for their perfect party. Next time you're planning a special event, check out this Greenwich Village gem. You'll find what you need for a celebration to remember.
We love Buon Italia in Chelsea Market for all their fresh ingredients imported directly from Italy, and what better way to enjoy those ingredients than prepared in a traditional Italian-style panini? La Panineria offers just that since it was opened by Mario Pesce, whose uncle is the owner of Buon Italia over in Chelsea Market. La Panineria is a quaint, authentic little Italian deli that offers sandwiches, pastries and desserts, soups, cheese plates, beer, wine, soda, and coffee, in addition to their small selection of Italian groceries. The shop is small, with just a couple of barstools in the window and one central table for people to eat around, but the food is absolutely delicious. We sampled the Parma Panini — a perfect combination of prosciutto and robiola cheese, along with the Cornetto — the Italian’s take on the croissant filled with Nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Needless to say our taste buds were satisfied as we chatted with Mario about the subtle but notable differences between “American” Nutella and authentic Italian Nutella (Italian Nutella is apparently slightly healthier! ).
Warhammer is the retail branch of an online British company that has been providing its unique gaming service for thirty years. The 8th Street location is New York's hotspot for miniature table-top war gaming. Eager workers will walk customers through every step - how to assemble the models, paint the pieces, and how to play the game itself. It takes a certain kind of patience and skill set to contract one's army and may appeal to a customer who enjoys strategy games such as chess. While it is recommended that kids begin learning the game at age twelve, we met a half a dozen men from ages eighteen to fifty who were sitting around the large table, chatting and toiling away on their magnificently detailed pieces.
Over many months, we had the pleasure of observing the construction of Amelie through each stage of its creation. To experience the ambience of this spectacular bar and restaurant alone is worth the visit... but then there is also the impressive wine list and a full French menu. The award-winning team behind Amelie in San Francisco opened their east coast wine bar in early 2012 and all we can say is tres delicieux.