Chef Scott Conant has opened his first restaurant in New York in more than a decade on a quaint side street in Flatiron. It’s within a space he’s become well-acquainted with over the years as a regular at Veritas, which closed in 2013.
“I really spent a lot of time here,” Conant explains from inside the bright restaurant space. “First of all, I loved [Sam Hazen’s] food. And this bar area was just like a hangout, where everyone got to know each other. Everyone would drink really good wines, and guys would come in and order really expensive wine and share it with everybody at the bar,” he continues. “So it was kind of like a nice place to hang, you know?”
It’s a vibe that Conant is hoping to re-create at his new restaurant Fusco. “There’s a quaintness to [the space], there’s something kind of European — something you’d find on a back street in Italy or Paris,” Conant says. The front room is anchored by the bar and features vaulted ceilings and giant windows overlooking 20th Street; the back dining room is more formal, decked with white tableclothes and surrounded by mirrors. White brick walls throughout lend a feeling of airiness and calm.
While the Fusco falls under the category of fine dining, Conant is concentrating on a slightly different category: “thoughtful dining.” “That’s the word I keep coming back to, because I think all too often we’ve all been in situations where we’re not having a thoughtful dining experience,” he says. “And it’s incredibly frustrating to be an afterthought. If you’re a guest in a restaurant, that should be the focus, right?”
The Italian menu will be hyper-seasonal. Although a few of his signature dishes will benchmark the menu, other plates will rotate every four to six weeks to reflect the seasonal availability of ingredients. With an eye on the overall dining experience, dishes will be finished tableside when possible, a continuation of Conant’s focus on thoughtfulness. It’s a path to differentiating Fusco from the rest of the New York City dining pack. After all, there are many good restaurants in the city.
“If somebody walks out and says everything was good, we failed,” Conant says. “They should be in a situation where it’s like — ‘It was fun, it was exciting, I crave this food and I want to be back because I had a great experience with the server on my table.’ That’s how you arrive at greatness.”
43 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003
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Launch Gallery: Feast for the Eye: Scott Conant's Fusco Opens