Tourists and transplants are often lured to New York by the West Village,
with its brownstones and bohemians, jazz and “Sex.” “My first association
with the Village came from watching the film ‘Klute,”’ says the
restaurateur Keith McNally. “Seeing Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda walk the
streets of the Village late at night was sheer intoxication. I think they’d
just had sex and were out buying groceries.
I was shocked that you could have sex and still go out to find shops open. I
think that’s why I came here.”
The shops might be open, but where to eat? This fall, three proven
restaurateurs are unfurling their marquees within a few blocks. At Waverly Place
and Charles Street, McNally is transforming a white-plastic-chair cafe into
Morandi, a rustic Italian restaurant that he describes as “the kind of country
place you might stumble upon when unable to find the grander place you were
searching for.” With Jody Williams in the kitchen, it’s a combination that
will draw devotees of Soho House and the James Beard House alike.
Two blocks away, the Waverly Inn has gone back to its imaginary 1920’s
roots. “We tried to restore the place to the way one would hope it once
was,” says Sean Macpherson, who revamped the brownstone space with Eric Goode,
his partner in the Park and the Maritime, along with Graydon Carter, the editor
of Vanity Fair, Emil Warda and the chef John DeLucie. Red booths, fireplaces and
an Edward Sorel mural of old bohemians and lefties will make it feel familiar to
rent-stabilized old-timers, as will the menu, with its “old American roots”
and Chez Panisse touches, says Macpherson.
The corner of West 12th and West Fourth Streets is one that cabbies will have
to get used to. In October, Lynn Wagenknecht, the woman behind the Odeon and Café
Luxembourg, along with her partners, Judi Wong and Steven Abramowitz, opened Café
Cluny. The room takes inspiration from Swedish botanical prints and little old
Left Bank hotels. Breakfast and lunch are available in the cafe, and Vincent
Nargi’s seasonal French-American food is on offer after dark. “We want to be
an everyday place,” Wagenknecht says.
Each wants to avoid being an all-night hangout. Thanks to zoning, McNally
says, “it can never disintegrate into the carnival atmosphere of weekend
nights in the meatpacking district. If it did, I’d shoot myself.” Welcome to