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Inside NYC’s most dramatic restaurant wars.

There are tens of thousands of restaurants and bars in New York City and its surrounding areas, but not all of them get along peacefully. Business partnerships go bad, real estate is at a premium, family relationships sour and the competition for customers is fierce. Behind some of the most talked-about new restaurants and bars...
Time: 20:10     Date: 14.08.2018
US Living News: Inside NYC’s most dramatic restaurant wars. NY Post 24 - US News
A struggle for power players

The suspense is over — the Four Seasons finally reopened Wednesday after a two-year construction saga. The most fabled restaurant in New York City history is reborn — shrunken but beautiful — three blocks south of the Seagram Building that was its home for nearly 60 years.

The landmarked Seagram spaces are now home to archrival Major Food Group’s the Grill and the Pool. As of Tuesday, the Four Seasons’ menu still wasn’t available. But the battle for glory, and customers, between the culinary combatants is already on.

Four Seasons owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder claim to have a waiting list of old-timers clamoring for reservations. A Grill and Pool insider said, “We don’t see the walls closing in but we do expect a dip for the first few weeks.”

Since Seagram landlord Aby Rosen booted the Four Seasons when its lease was up in July 2016 and replaced it with Major Food, there’s been no love between the restaurateurs. Nor even a kind word. A Major Food rep said this week that its partners and Rosen were all “unfortunately unable to be reached for comment” on the Four Seasons revival.

For decades, the Four Seasons was the town’s most storied place to eat. Launched in 1959, it introduced the “power lunch.”

The bar at the Grill restaurant.Zandy Mangold

Many longtime customers are panting to return. Martha Stewart tells The Post she “can’t wait.” Once, during the long closure, Henry Kissinger — a devotee of the old house’s $40 baked potato — called Niccolini and von Bidder over to his limo, which was stopped on Park Avenue.

“So when are you going to open your place?” von Bidder recalls Kissinger growling. Preview meals over the past week drew fashion designer Joseph Abboud, philanthropist Charles Bronfman, famed residential broker Dolly Lenz and practically every big commercial real estate dealmaker in town.

Some are so loyal to Niccolini and von Bidder that they never set foot in the Grill or the Pool after Major Food opened them. (Neither did the partners: “They’re in the past,” von Bidder said.)

“Julian was a maestro who moves around patrons and tables like Nelson Riddle arranging notes,” says Whitney Global Media president William O’Shaughnessy. “Unlike at new places full of humorless foodies, they’re selling a venue where fun exists.

Maria von Nicolai, another Four Seasons fan and the institutional relations manager for Illy Cafe, says she tried the Grill “once out of curiosity. It was so alien, as if you went home and found that somebody else had moved in.”

At the new Four Seasons, “There’s Julian and Alex smiling with the same warm greeting,” von Nicolai says.

But while fans waited out the reopening, the Grill and the Pool developed their own big-spending, mostly younger audience. Power publicist Lizzie Grubman says, “[Partner Jeff Zalaznick] and his wife were both born in New York City. They’re friends with everyone. Jeff has made his rooms the new hot spot.”

Some Grill and Pool devotees seem willing to give the new Four Seasons a try. Socialite Dori Cooperman, ready to hit the circuit after recently giving birth to a baby boy at age 46, says, “I’m loyal to the Grill for dinner, but I’ll absolutely try the Seasons. I’ll go anywhere good.”

But she notes that the Grill clientele is “much younger” than the old Four Seasons crowd — a mature old guard that included octogenarians, such as former Simon & Schuster editor Michael Korda, Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Leonard A. Lauder.

Von Bidder and Niccolini have tapped a p.r. firm to promote the Four Seasons on social media. But it won’t likely draw penny-pinching millennials any more than the Grill or Pool does. Appetizers will run $25 to $65 and main courses from $44 to $75 — in the same rough ballpark as the Grill and Pool.

‘It was so alien, as if you went home and found that somebody else had moved in.’

Talented young executive chef Diego Garcia, 30, worked at Le Bernardin and ran his own show at West 50s seafood bistro Gloria. He plans to update house classics, such as tableside steak tartare, Maryland crabcakes and farmhouse duck, and add seasonal ones, such as butter-poached lobster.

The new Four Seasons has a mere 100 dining room seats versus 240 previously at Seagram. But Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld’s design is gorgeous with a sunken square bar flecked with gold leaf and steel fabric window shades that gently evoke the Seagram rooms’ famed aluminum curtains.

It’s been a long road for von Bidder and Niccolini, who squabbled publicly for years with Rosen at the Seagram Building. Then came Niccolini’s third-degree misdemeanor assault plea in 2016 after he was accused of sexual assault by a female customer. The arrest came more than two decades after a waitress sued for sexual harassment.

But for Four Seasons loyals that seems to be in the past. They’re happy to just have their old clubhouse back.

Real estate lawyer Jonathan Mechanic has an office in the Seagram Building and knew the old Four Seasons well. He’s thrilled by the new version. He says: “Alex and Julian did an amazing job re-creating a venue that’s both familiar and new.”

— Steve Cuozzo

Rigatoni rivals Gabby Karan’s Tutto Il Giorno serves classics like fettucine bolognese (left). Maurizio Marfoglia serves similar pasta dishes (right) at Doppo la SpaiggiaEric Striffler; Angel Chevrestt

Mamma mia! Hamptonites are buzzing about two rival Italian restaurants.

In July, Gabby Karan de Felice (daughter of Donna Karan) opened an outpost of her Tutto Il Giorno in Sag Harbor, just down the street from its original location and now Dopo la Spiaggia, a popular eatery run by Karan’s former business partners, Maurizio Marfoglia and Larry and Maria Baum.

“They are both hot, so it’s a constant debate,” says Xavier Merat, who owns Sag Harbor’s chic Salon Xavier and says his clients are always gabbing about which restaurant to go to.

Marfoglia is vocal in his disapproval of Karan de Felice moving in his territory. After they parted ways in 2016, she signed a two-year non-compete agreement, but was quick to make a move once it expired.

“All we need is another Italian restaurant in town,” Marfoglia tells The Post. “I think [the agreement] ran out in December, and in January they were popping Champagne and toasting the new space.”

Larry Baum says seeing many of the same dishes, such as spicy tuna tartare and burrata with organic tomatoes and fresh basil, was a shock. “Not only did they open 275 steps away, but they used a lot of Maurizio’s menu,” says Baum.

Gabby Karan and Maurizio MarfogliaLuca Babini; Angel Chevrestt

Don Evans, producer of the food events Taste of Two Forks, GrillHampton and MonTaco, says he experienced a bit of déjà vu visiting the restaurants.

“I ate at Dopo one night and Tutto the next and had exactly the same rigatoni preparation,” he says. “It was a little surreal.”

Karan de Felice says that many Italian spots have similar dishes.

“These are staples that we all love; we are not reinventing the wheel,” she says. “My husband grew up in Southern Italy and these are his mother’s recipes.”

Some locals are vocal about which spot they prefer.

“My friends and I are loyal to Dopo because we’d rather feel like we are sitting at a cafe by the water in Capri than on busy Main Street in Sag Harbor,” says Compass real-estate agent Diane Shifman.

Others are happy to remain neutral.

“My circle of friends used to go to Dopo all the time but now we divide our time between Dopo and Tutto,” says Andrea Warshaw-Wernick, 71, who lives on the Upper East Side and has a home in Wainscott. “We went to Tutto Thursday and loved that the place is so elegant and the crowd is so glamorous, but Friday we were at Dopo and everyone at my table was blown out of the water by the food.”

Neither establishment is suffering for business at the moment.

“You need to have a connection to get a table at either place right now,” says Park Avenue cosmetic dermatologist Howard Sobel.

Baum is philosophical about how it might all play out.

“I have done a massive amount of personal reflection, and I believe in karma,” he says. “I am thankful to them for pushing us to be better.”

— Beth Landman

The 42-year-old Danish twins Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø both brew eccentric beers with fashionable labeling and an aficionado following. But that’s where the similarities end.

In 2006, Mikkel started up his first brewing company, Mikkeller, which now sells in its own branded bars around the world. In 2010, Jeppe founded his own “nomadic” brewing company — with no physical brewery tying him down — with a title that would signal the tumult to come: Evil Twin Brewing.

By 2010, the two weren’t speaking, their relationship soured by differing tastes and lavish insults.

“He is so desperate to ‘beat’ me he will do whatever it takes,” Jeppe tells The Post.

Now, the brothers are about to go head-to-head in Queens. Jeppe, who sells much of his beer from Torst, the restaurant he co-owns in Greenpoint, is putting the final touches on his first brewery, in Ridgewood. It’s expected to open in the next two to three months.

‘He is so desperate to ‘beat’ me, he will do whatever it takes.’

This past March, Mikkel opened a Mikkeller — which has 39 locations across Europe, Asia and California — at Citi Field.

As a result, Jeppe says, things with Mikkel have “never been worse.” He also claims that, the name aside, Mikkel doesn’t even own his Queens brewery.

“I own 100 percent of my company,” Jeppe says. “Mikkeller has sold out.”

Mikkel says he doesn’t like to comment on his relationship with his brother. Nevertheless, he takes issue with Jeppe’s latest claim: “Everything Jeppe says is made up by himself, and he has no proof of anything he says about me and Mikkeller.”

Mikkel adds that while ownership contracts are confidential, he’s very much involved in Mikkeller’s operations, “from doing recipes to arranging collabs and taking part in the bigger decisions.” The latest includes a collaboration with Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands Brewing Co. and North Carolina’s Casita Cerveceria on Skyfood, a double IPA that’s brewed with ginger, Szechwan peppercorns, young coconut, aloe, durian, orange zest, honey, jasmine flowers and lychee.

In what could be the understatement of the century, Jeppe sums it up this way: “In general, we just grew apart.”

— Lauren Steussy

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