The clock has started ticking to opening night for chef Nick Di Bona’s new Larchmont restaurant, Madison Kitchen. Right now the target date is June 1st, but with any type of construction project, there’s already been a significant amount of “hurry up and wait” situations. Curious to know what goes into opening a restaurant? Me too! And that’s why I’m so psyched that Nick is graciously allowing me to follow his journey from his signature on the lease’s dotted line just a few short weeks ago to the first plate out of the kitchen sometime this summer. My blog posts will be the story of Madison Kitchen — the MK Diary.
First, let me tell you a little about this talented young chef. Nick’s father came to the United States 50 years ago from the Abruzzi region of Italy, which makes Nick a first generation American. In a big Italian family, it’s all about the food; and his dad, the youngest of ten siblings, may be the inspiration for at least one menu idea — a traditional Sunday supper featuring simple, peasant dishes like pasta with gravy and meatballs. Growing up in Yorktown and working as a busboy at Peter Pratt’s Inn was just the start of Nick’s dream of some day owning his own restaurant. He quickly moved up to kitchen prep and hasn’t been out of the kitchen since.
After attending The Culinary Institute of America and working closely with chef/owner Jonathan Pratt, executive chef Nick Di Bona was a creative force in the kitchen at the tender age of twenty-four. When asked about his cuisine, he describes himself as a food mechanic. A little puzzling, but not if you’ve ever tried his avocado gnocchi. Deconstructing the avocado and lime components in guacamole, and then reassembling them in a totally different way in gnocchi, definitely requires some mechanical culinary engineering. Sharing his view of being a chef, Nick says, “At some point, you realize that this is your life and it’s all you want to do.” And now at 27, he’s eager to take the next step in his career — his own restaurant, Madison Kitchen.
After signing the lease for the space at 7 Madison Avenue, Nick has been busy with the business end of things like incorporating his company, applying for a liquor license, and opening bank accounts. At the same time, his media agency, Blue Station Pictures, has been in the process of building his brand, website, and Facebook page. “We are very excited and proud to be helping this talented chef strategize and execute the look, image and campaign of Madison Kitchen.”
One of these images will be the final logo:
Cast your vote for your favorite on the MK Facebook page (personally, I’m liking #5), and if it turns out to be the final design, you could find yourself enjoying a 3-course dinner compliments of the chef.
Back to demolition, Nick has been getting down and dirty, trading in his saute pan for a hammer.
Heading up the restaurant construction is Artie Lange of Arthur Lange, Inc. Frank Savastano of Dufine Furniture is helping with the demolition and remodeling of the outdated bar (that’s him in the picture above peeking through the wall). Here’s some before pics
and the eventual happily ever after design of the bar area
and the dining room
An in-wall gas fireplace will be the focal point of the modern bar which will be positioned just as you walk into the restaurant. Some of the other rustic yet upscale design ideas being considered are textured rock walls, concrete floors, reclaimed wood, pendant lighting, the new logo in a border of small copper circles of penny tiles and lots of warm inviting colors.
Nick is counting the days to when he will be cooking for us in his kitchen, but in the meantime, there’s tons more research, work, and decisions ahead of him. What’s coming up next: choosing a point of sale system, picking the brain of a famous restaurant mogul and the start of a stellar menu. Stay tuned!