Alessandro Borgognone, the man who discovered Daisuke Nakazawa and opened NYC restaurant blockbuster Sushi Nakazawa, has an eye for talent. In the process of reviving the iconic writers’ hangout Chumley’s in the West Village, he’s done it again with rising chef Victoria Blamey. In the third episode of Restaurant Roots, F&W sits down with the two to talk about what it takes to bring a landmark back to life.
The people that frequented this space, possibly the millions, the people that actually created memories here. Having that legacy live on, that was the most important factor to us. [MUSIC] I'm Alessandro Borgognone, owner of Chumley's. I am Victoria Blamey. I'm the executive chef of Chumley's This is one of the oldest speakeasies in New York City. It was established in 1922. It went from Prohibition to a writers' colony to having all these famous writers like Ernest Hemingway. And throughout the years it went from being that speakeasy to a bar. Dive bar. A dive bar. And that was from the early 80s until it was closed. This was probably one of the most problematic and complicated projects that we've taken on from people arguing with the Department of Buildings and who wanted Chumley's closed, who wanted Chumley's open, very controversial. We came here, we looked around. There was nothing. He showed me the kitchen. I was like, boy. [LAUGH] It was a tough sell. It was concrete floor, white floor, it was a white box. There was nothing here, anything that you see here was done by us. It took us a good couple of months to figure out exactly what direction we were heading into. We knew that we wanted to look like Chumley's but it had to be an updated, modern version of Chumley's. All of us are worried whether we really do good food. And it wasn't gonna be like finger food. Yeah, but I never wanted to do finger food. Well I didn't know that. Never wanted it, finger food is not me. We had a discussion. [LAUGH] So that's where we are. Yeah. We have this [UNKNOWN]. [LAUGH] Alex always said I want a burger, and when I came in here I said yeah, for sure, I see it cuz it has a vibe of the bar. And then see where we can have this line of maybe some fine dining. We want it bold. Yeah. So. We wanted tons of flavors. We didn't want anything to be pretentious, but we wanted it to be fun casual. We want to feed you. This is the art. This is how we express ourselves. And I don't about what we're **** right now. We love seeing people enjoy what we've created. That's the ultimate. It doesn't get better than that. That's what we truly live for. [MUSIC] I wouldn't use just one word. I would just say it's cozy. It's comfortable. Yeah, I would sexy, bold. Sexy, bold. Sexy and bold? Sexy and bold. Sexy and bold? Yeah. [LAUGH] That's crazy.