“I always feel like opening a restaurant is a good idea,” says Scott Conant.
In the last few months, he’s already thrown open the doors to Mora Italian in Phoenix and The Ponte in Los Angeles. Now he makes his grand debut after a five-year search for the perfect space for Fusco, opening today in New York City’s Flatiron District.
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It’s restaurant terrain he’s all too familiar with, the former home of Vertitas.
“I would hang out there all the time when Scott Bryan was the chef there,” he says. “I loved the ambience and energy of the space, so we didn’t make any structural wall changes. It feels really good to have a place that’s an extension of me.”
Fusco is his grandmother’s maiden name. She lived just a mile away from Conant when he was growing up, and though she passed away he was young, she left a lasting impression.
“I always remember her sitting at her big board, making cavatelli and orecchiette,” says Conant. “But the biggest thing wasn’t the food memories but her warmth and hospitality. No matter your cultural background, you know that old-world hospitality, and that’s the inspiration I take.”
At the bright, breezy Fusco, you’ll find those little imprints of the old world in the canapés presented to you at the table once you step in, and bread service that comes with house-churned butter and a broccoli rabe-Parm dip.
“Those are the type to things that people identify with this kind of food: gregarious service and generosity of the kitchen,” he says.
But the old-world nostalgia ends with the front-of-house. Back in the kitchen, Conant isn’t trying to recreate his grandmother’s homey pastas but instead channel sprezzatura, “the art of making the elegant look easy,” he says. With his longtime corporate chef Daniel Tackett and Marea alum Joe Abbruzzese as chef de cuisine, they’re pushing the borders of Italian food, dipping into France. That means finishing duck agnolotti with a little foie gras and pouring a mushroom sugo over polenta with a touch of truffle shavings.
“This is avant-garde technique with a rustic soul,” says Conant. “I’m able to do the food I’ve always done. The next step is making customers happy.”