Guests at Wednesday night’s gala reopening of Carnegie Hall will thrill to the triumphant strains of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
But the most exciting sounds at Trattoria dell’Arte at 907 Seventh Ave. across the street will be the renewed buzz of customers chowing down on veal chop parmigiana, burrata-stuffed ravioli and thin-crust pizza with “a lot of pepperoni,” as the menu calls it.
Trattoria dell’Arte, like Carnegie Hall, was dark for 20 long months since the citywide pandemic shutdown began in March of 2020. The restaurant’s re-launch marks the latest milestone in Midtown’s recovery.
It means one less major restaurant that remains closed, a shrinking roster that includes Sardi’s, Shun Lee Palace and Polo Bar. Only Sardi’s would cite a planned reopening “for mid- or late fall.”
The colorful, 400-seat, three-level jumbo Trattoria with a giant, Milton Glaser-designed nose above the entrance has been a midtown institution since it opened 33 years ago. It drew much of its nighttime business from Carnegie Hall, which in turn counted on Trattoria to feed hungry music lovers before and after performances.
Owner Shelly Fireman waited to reopen until the concert hall reopened with 3,671 seats — and potential restaurant customers — in its three performance venues.
“It’s a joyous day,” Fireman said. “We’re giving everybody champagne as soon as people walk in.”
Before the Covid-19 lockdown, Trattoria dell’Arte — flagship of Fireman Hospitality Group which includes Bond 45, RedEye Grill, Fiorello and Brooklyn Diner — saw revenue “north of $12 million” annually, Fireman said.
Company CEO/partner Benjamin Grossman said, “We don’t expect to equal that. But we know this neighborhood very well. We’re optimistic that it will get better.”
Grossman said that in pre-Covid times, Trattoria might serve 500 customers from Carnegie Hall on any given night. “But these are not normal times,” he said.
Both men credited Trattoria’s survival in part to a cooperative landlord, the Feil Organization. The two sides recently extended Trattoria’s lease for fifteen years.
They wouldn’t discuss terms but Grossman said, “The way we think about things now is, you’d be crazy to do a deal that didn’t have a significant part of rent tied to a percentage of business.”
Trattoria had less trouble rehiring staff than many other places. Executive chef Brando De Oliveira, who worked with Fireman for twenty years, is back along with most of the managers.
Some employees were given jobs at Fireman’s other restaurants — “they were actually over-staffed for a while,” Grossman said — in anticipation of Trattoria’s reopening.
But tough times still lie ahead while office buildings remain only 28 percent occupied and tourists are few.
Fireman said that, except for thriving Fiorello near Lincoln Center, business at his other places “slightly sucks” although Broadway reopenings should help.
He wouldn’t speculate on how well his restaurants, or the city, would do in the long run — but, “Survive we will,” he said.
Carnegie Hall executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson said, “We have such a great partnership with Shelly Fireman and Trattoria. He does a wonderful job welcoming concertgoers before and after our shows. It makes it an extra special evening knowing that Trattoria dell’Arte is back.”