Hearth's Marco Canora: "The 10-year-old Restaurant Is Like the 50-year-old Lady in Grandma Jeans"
Thank the restaurant review cycle, the minuscule attention span of this city's diners, and the trials and tribulations that come with doing business in NYC: Restaurants that makes it to their first or second birthdays are doing well, especially if they're able to stay relevant in the broader media conversation.
That makes the fact that Hearth (403 East 12th Street, 646-602-1300) will celebrate its 10th birthday this month even more impressive -- the spot has become something of a standard-bearer in the world of simple, rustic Italian fare (not to mention the deep and well-rounded drinks program), and owner-operators chef Marco Canora and Paul Grieco still find the motivation to push their spot further.
That's essential given the nature of the industry, says Canora. "My god, it's like, this town, it's all about the new and the young and the hip and the noteworthy," he says. "The 10-year-old restaurant is like the 50-year-old lady in grandma jeans."
But tell the chef that Hearth appears to have avoided that fate, and he'll protest. "The economics of the restaurant business here are such that it's not enough to only fill your dining room once," he explains. "You look at Hearth, and it's full on a Tuesday night at 8, and you think, those guys are fucking destroying it." Reality, he says, is that the restaurant fights every day to get late and early turns to make the numbers work. Still, he's not complaining: "Perception is reality in most cases. In a lot of ways, I love that that's what the vibe is out there."
In the interview that follows, the chef talks about why Hearth became a destination restaurant, how he stays engaged, and his pie-in-the-sky project.