In the New York City restaurant industry, it's very hard to make it to the 10-year mark. Introducing 10 Years In, wherein Eater meets with the restaurateurs that are approaching this milestone to chat about the ups and downs of their de...
In the New York City restaurant industry, it's very hard to make it to the 10-year mark. Introducing 10 Years In, wherein Eater meets with the restaurateurs that are approaching this milestone to chat about the ups and downs of their decade in business. Up first: Marco Canora and Paul Grieco, the dynamic duo behind Hearth.
The menu that Marco Canora and Paul Grieco served at Hearth on November 20, 2003, looks remarkably similar to the one that they currently offer today. Marco and Paul are strong proponents of the three-course a la carte experience. Over the years, they haven't cut corners in terms of the quality of the food they offer or the service they provide to guests. And, even in the darkest days of 2008, they never caved by adding a burger or shareable small plates to the menu, even though many of their esteemed contemporaries went that route. Eater recently sat down with Marco and Paul to chat about the challenges of running Hearth over the past 10 years, and where they're at right now.
What was opening night like at Hearth?
Marco Canora, chef and owner: It was really busy. There was a lot of opening buzz because of where we came from. I spent three-and-a-half years opening Craft, which got all kinds of accolades and James Beard Awards, and Paul had done a 10-year stint at Gramercy Tavern where he, too, won awards. Gramercy was just the shit back then, and it still is today. So, when we both came together to do this, there was a lot of attention, a lot of eyes, and a lot of interest. A lot of people were like, "What a team!"
Hal Rubenstein was at New York magazine at the time, and he did the review. He used this metaphor about how the two presidents of the chess team are coming to the East Village to open their buttoned-up restaurant. 10 years ago, it was like, "These guys are going where, to do what?" It was a very different neighborhood. Admittedly, we were a little more buttoned-up than we are now. And, like everybody who starts out, we felt like we had a lot to prove. We were very serious, which is really not the way things are going now. We haven't really turned upside down or changed what we do in terms of the philosophy behind our food or the philosophy behind our wine and beverage, and all that stuff. I don't want to say we're doing the same thing, but we haven't changed massively in terms of the direction of what we do.
Paul Grieco, owner and sommelier: Conversations began 12 months before Hearth opened. Marco was still working at Craft — your final day was October 1, 2003 — and I was out of work. I left Gramercy Tavern on October 2, 2002. I was out of work for over a year, so I had a lot more time to think about it. But we met and talked, and the two things that we spent the majority of the time talking about were raising the money for this place and the idea. And we took those two things away from Danny Meyer. His counsel is that when you open your own place, you need two things to be in play: you're fully capitalized, and you have a kernel of an idea of what the place is, and then everything you do can be tied back to that kernel of an idea. What Hearth was, for better or for worse, was fully formed at that moment in time. When we say that we haven't changed, it's because we haven't had to change, because the idea, at least for us, whether it has been received by the public or not, was fully vetted out. The idea then, on that Thursday night, is the same idea that we have now.
You opened with a tasting menu in addition to the a la carte options. Were people ordering the tasting menu back then?
Marco: It was very a la carte. You know, this was before the small plates craze. People were eating in that appetizer, entree, dessert-type format, and they were very comfortable with it. The small plates thing didn't really happen yet.
What was the review process like?
Marco: Nobody dogged us at all. They were all incredibly positive and they were