Restaurant Roots: Reviving Chumley’s in NYC
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.
Read the transcript of this video
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.