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Bazar 1 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin

There are an estimated 24,000 restaurants in Manhattan, but Ladislav Kulisek claims that there are very few, if any, owned by a Czech​, besides himself. And he has three. ​

​"​On m​y first attempt, I imported a ​rotisserie chicken trailer from the Czech Republic. This is a popular street food there, and I thought why not New York? It turns out New Yorkers don’t like the mess on their fingers.” The unprofitable chicken venture ended abruptly when someone stole the trailer. As I learned, things would get worse for Ladislav before they got better.

Ladislav grew up in a small town near Brno in the Czech Republic. He chose to travel to the United States in 1999 in order to improve his English and seek out economic opportunities. Despite arriving with a master’s degree in economics, Ladislav entered the restaurant industry at the bottom, as a busboy. “I worked my way up the ladder. I was a waiter at Peter Luger and a bartender at the Boathouse in Central Park. My dream, though, was to run my own restaurant in Manhattan.”

After the chicken trailer, Ladislav set up Club 21, a Czech-Slovak style bar in Astoria, and eventually found a partner willing to put up half the capital to open a restaurant in Manhattan. “I needed someone to help finance the venture and I needed it to be an American to do the paperwork with the city. We agreed that I would oversee everything from the construction to the menu and design, so I was working hard, every day. Then, the night before we opened, I found all the locks had been changed.” His business partner told Ladislav to "​get lost."​ His name was no​t on the paperwork so he had no standing.

What did you do then, I asked? “I thought maybe I will have to do something,​ but my lawyer said no, no, leave this to me. I didn’t get any money out of it, but the other guy lost his business, his house, everything.” Justice had been done.

Missteps behind him, Ladislav set out to try again. This time he met with more success. La Cava opened in 2010, Vella Wine Bar in 2012, and Bazár in 2017. Each restaurant has a different chef and a carefully vetted partner. Ladislav attributes his success to having worked his way up in the industry. “If you want to own a restaurant and you do not know every aspect of the business, you will fail.”

​He went on to explain, ​“The restaurant is like a puzzle,” and you have to see how all the different pieces fit. You have to see every single detail. If you are missing one thing, the whole picture will not add up. I think about everything from the feel of the surrounding neighborhood to the look of the menu.” To top it all off, Ladislav personally designs​ his restaurants. “In kindergarten,​ the teacher said I should do art school after regular classes. For eight years I did that. I have always had that creative side.”

While speaking with Ladislav,​ I realized more and more the attention he pays to every​ detail as well as vigilant management and a willingness to evolve according to trends and customer feedback. When I asked him about his next move, he said he was considering a taco joint in Wynwood, Miami. “I love building something from nothing,” he told me, as he flipped through pictures on his phone of when Bazár was a blown-out lot. Ladislav builds his establishments up brick by brick, a process that he truly enjoys. Still, he looks forward to a time when he might step back. “My goal, my hope is that one day, my restaurants will make me free.”

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Bazar 1 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 2 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 3 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 4 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 21 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 22 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 23 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 5 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 6 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 7 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 8 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 9 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 10 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 11 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 12 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 13 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 14 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 15 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 16 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 17 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 18 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 19 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin
Bazar 20 Italian Tapas and Small Plates Flatiron Tenderloin

More Italian nearby

Lost Gem
Ulivo 1 Italian undefined


Fabio Camardi - the charming owner both of this restaurant and Mercato on West 39th Street - announced as we walked inside his brand new restaurant that it had taken two years to complete his renovation. He went on to say that he had chosen the location because he is fond of the architecture in the NoMad neighborhood – “architecture is my hobby, ” he told me. “I built this place myself, ” he went on to say, showing me how he had added the beams in the ceiling and created the new floor made of reclaimed red and white oak. When I commented on the furniture filling the restaurant, including tables from a library upstate and an old butcher’s block, Fabio informed me that he has been collecting antiques for years. While continuing to chat about the renovation, Fabio explained that it was slow going due to the fact that the building dates back to 1865 and has achieved landmark status. Therefore, he had to wait for official permits to do any work. When the restaurant opened in April 2016, Fabio was delighted by how friendly the neighborhood was. “They were immediately nice, ” he said. The highlight of visiting Ulivo, aside from Fabio, was seeing the “Pasta Lab. ” Unlike its sister restaurant, Ulivo focuses on pasta, with fifteen different dishes on the menu. Thirteen of those are made with help from an enormous machine that sits in the basement. “It’s the most advanced machine we have in Italy, ” Fabio proudly told me. He turned the machine on and I was able to watch as it created large tubes of rigatoni and then long strings of spaghetti, using a different setting. “The more pasta you make, the better it gets, ” Fabio informed me. Beyond the pasta lab, there was an event space that seats forty, complete with a full bar and a Faema espresso machine from 1949. At the end of the room, I spotted a special door with a porthole that opens onto the beer cooler, and, in the very back, built out of the old coal shaft, I discovered a cave where the liquor is kept. Upstairs, there is a wine cellar encased in glass with a wooden ladder next to the kitchen. I was intrigued by the row of twenty different olive oils sitting on the counter in easy reach of the chefs. Fabio makes sure that each brand is made and bottled in Italy. When I asked which olive oil was the best, he said he could not answer the question. “It’s based on your taste, like wine. ” In the kitchen itself, different meats were hanging across from a wood fire oven on the opposite wall. Along with pasta, Emanuel “Mano” Concas, partner and the chef (whom Fabio refers to as “The George Clooney of Sardinia), cooks “dal forno a legna” in the wood-fire oven. Each plate is created using a cast iron pan placed directly into the oven. Some of the more popular non-pasta dishes are the tail-in branzino and the dry-aged steak. Being familiar with the themes of good Italian cooking, I was not surprised when Fabio told me, “Everything is fresh. ” This is especially true for the restaurant’s “fritture, ” little dishes. These items include fresh octopus, cold cuts, burrata, and fried meatballs with sea salt, a dish that is particularly popular in Sardinia, where the chef is from. There are also two flatbreads on the menu, but Fabio was adamant that Ulivo is not a pizza restaurant. He simply chose the two that they do "best" at Mercato: The San Daniele with prosciutto and arugula and the Regina Margherita. Fabio shared the myth behind the latter: The story goes that Italian chefs decided to put something special before the Queen. Up until that time, pizzas just had sauce, and so they added buffalo mozzarella to make it royal, hence the “Regina. ”If there is a certain nonchalance about Fabio and his attitude toward owning two restaurants in New York, it is probably because he has a lot of experience in this world – he even went to culinary school, which is rare amongst Italians, who often just rest on the fact that they were born into a culture that puts a lot of emphasis on high-quality food. Fabio shared that he owns four restaurants in Italy, which his forty-four cousins help to run. He went on to tell me that he came to the United States in 2004 because he “didn’t like Berlusconi” (the unpopular former Prime Minister of Italy) and that he began his career in New York as a bartender (the cocktail list at Ulivo is his own creation). In addition, there are four local beers on tap, including Smart Beer, which Fabio says is the "first organic beer made in New York. " There is also a substantial bourbon list – “It’s what people want. ”I particularly loved the story of how he met his wife, who is originally from Korea: they were both attending English school. Several years later, they have two adorable children and “She’s my bookkeeper, ” he said with a smile. His wife is also responsible for the beautiful candles and dried flowers throughout the space. Fabio is playing with the idea of opening an Italian restaurant in Korea. He told me that there is no fresh olive oil available in eastern Asia, but that China had recently planted one million olive trees to try to remedy the situation. Olive oil is absolutely essential to Italian cooking, which is why Fabio named his restaurant “Ulivo. ” He stated, “There is no Italian cuisine without olive oil. ”Fabio’s vision for Ulivo is a perfect blend of traditional and modern. Though he uses traditional Italian culinary methods and pasta recipes, he embraces new technology - such as his pasta machine - and trends. When I asked what was next for Fabio, he responded, “I’m full of ideas – there’s a lot of stuff that I want to try and eat. I love to eat! ”

More places on 26th Street

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Izakaya NoMad

Today, NoMad – short for North of Madison Square Park – is one of Manhattan’s hottest neighborhoods, but Moku, co-owner of Izakaya NoMad, could not have foreseen that when location-scouting for his New York variation of a classic Japanese izakaya (a casual bar serving small plates that pair well with alcohol). Having owned an izakaya in Korea Town, Moku wanted to bring Japanese food to a region where it was sparse. Averi, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, had an exceptional experience at Izakaya NoMad. Upon her arrival, she was greeted warmly by Moku and his team and quickly shown around the restaurant before the dinner crowd poured in. They started at the front of the house, where Moku pointed out the first section of a three-part custom mural painted by an illustrator from the School for Visual Arts, depicting NoMad infused with elements of Japanese pop culture like Godzilla and Astro Boy. From there, they moved into a long, narrow hall lined with cozy geometric booths, a long bar and open kitchen. Moku admitted that it would have been easier to have the kitchen stationed in the rear like most eateries, but he and co-founder Jay desired to be transparent about their high quality ingredients and also wanted guests to be able to interact with their culinarily well-versed yakitori chef (who coincidentally, bares the nickname Godzilla). Passing by the bar, Averi and her hosts drifted to the back of the dining room, where on an elevated platform, reconfigurable chairs rested under cubed light fixtures. Behind them, modern counters hid in an exposed brick cove with a graffiti reptilian tail tagged on the wall. Back at the front, Averi took a seat at a grand communal table wrapped in cool light from the descending sun and decorative paper lanterns overhead. Sliding doors reminiscent of shōji separate the area from the restaurant upon request, creating an ideal space for company dinners and birthday parties. Moku noted that Izakaya Nomad's design established five “unique spaces… like a maze. ” The bar was intimate and mature, the tables on the platform familial and familiar, the urban grotto youthful and hip, and the front room airy and conversation invoking. Once settled, Moku shared the novel-like menu with Averi, consisting of yakitori, sashimi, sushi, tataki, tempura, hot pots, wine, beer, and sake with informative descriptions for those who may be unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine. A waiter then brought three varieties of sake, and Moku gave Averi a brief lesson in the fermented rice alcohol. She learned that the intensity of flavor stems from how much the outer layer of each grain of rice is stripped away. For example, the harder junmai sake polishes less of the grain – only about thirty percent - so it had a strong rice taste, which Moku claims is popular with young people these days. The junmai ginjo sake takes away about forty percent of the grain, resulting in a subtle sweetness, while the junmai daiginjo removes fifty percent, leaving a “smooth” creamy texture and “less hangover. ” The junmai daiginjo was Averi's favorite of the three, crisp and refreshing with just enough punch. Moku assured her that if sake is not a guest’s "cup of tea, " an impressive list of both beer and wine are available. After drinks, Moku reviewed the custom tasting menu that had been prepared for Averi's visit. With lobster tail, soft fried tofu, sizzling butamoyasi (bacon, beansprouts onions, and chives), uni (sea urchin), and sushi, the menu was reflective of the izakaya’s overall project: to apply the best parts of the Japanese izakaya experience to a “New York market. ” In fact, Izakaya NoMad was the first izakaya around to call themselves a Japanese gastropub. For this reason, the fare served at NoMad is not exactly conventional, as it includes items like sushi and ramen to meet the demand of its clientele. Additionally, the restaurant finds creative ways to incorporate less common snacks like chicken gizzard, battered, fried, and seasoned to be accessible to the average New Yorker. When the colorful, steaming plates began to arrive at the table, it seemed like they would never stop. What a feast. The enoki mushrooms wrapped in smoked bacon, grilled chicken skewers, and the fatty tuna sushi were all delightful; though the sweet “rocket tsukune” (free range chicken meatball), juicy beef short rib yakitori, and the smoky hamachi tataki (seared yellow tail) really stole the show. Averi was surprised when Moku revealed that many of the elements do not require intense seasoning: at izakaya NoMad, they “don’t overdo things” and like to let the fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Despite the quantity of dishes, nothing was repetitive. Each item showcased its own distinct medley of delicious flavors. Incredibly humble and hospitable, Moku and Jay are adamant about focusing on the food, not themselves. While they aim to rival the product of a five-star celebrity establishment, they seek to leave pretention behind, insisting they would never judge customers for how they use chopsticks or eat sushi. “As long as you enjoy, that’s the main point, ” said Moku, “that’s our philosophy. ” Providing “an alternative to any traditional beer experience in Manhattan” with an “upscale look but casual environment, ” Izakaya NoMad has set out to be a safe, social gathering place where food, company, and alcohol can all be enjoyed without inhibition. From Averi's experience, we can verify that is certainly the case.