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The Gatekeepers: A Voce's Dante Camara

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This is The Gatekeepers, Season Two, in which Eater contributing photographer Michael Harlan Turkell roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.

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A Voce opened in March 2006 and, having gotten three stars from the Bruni despite what is generally considered to be a mediocre dining room design, is a bona fide success. The food is excellent, the Madison Square Park vicinity location prime, the tables fairly impossible to book during prime time table. You'll see below, "the staff only has tables for 6PM or 10PM," and ownership, and Maitre D' Dante Camara control the rest.

Dante: It’s taboo to discuss real estate and give up table numbers, we note the request, but only taxes are guaranteed. Our “power tables” are 30, 16, and 20 – 23. Near the window and flanking the café. We’re sitting in 43; it’s slightly secluded—and where Brad and Angelina sat. Uma (Thurman) was just at 44.

People who have been in lately: Wine Spectator, Food Art, NY Life and Credit Suisse, and book agents. Gramercy Park Hotel, the Waldorf and Four Seasons. Brad and Angelina, as I said, were recently in town. Mary J. Blige, Clive Davis, Tom Brokaw and his circle. Quite well rounded, as our restaurant’s central location lends itself to such a diversified portfolio.

I’ve been to Italy (and so has the chef) and still people come in to just gripe. Those days of the customer always being right isn’t necessarily true anymore. It’s a professional environment, so don’t talk to me and/or my host/hostesses like the scum of the earth. It’s like jumping into a cab, have your directions and cross streets and you’ll get there quickest.

I like to be accessible. I want to be known as a GM who's actually there! The staff only has tables for 6PM or 10PM. That is not what people want to hear (and it's not who they want to hear it from). I'm there to talk to. A lot of reservation brokers send gifts to keep such relationships open. We do a lot of Open Table, but it still behooves brokers to establish those relationships.

All I ask is you be accurate. The men and women that work here are very competent and I stand by them. Once a person came in asking for Andrew Cannelloni. That’s pasta, not a person. A litany of phone calls come in when I’m away dropping my name (I just returned from my vacation).

If you’re savvy, just be savvy with our business. There’s so much information on the Internet, research and be ready. Give the restaurant all the info possible. I love parents and kids but some people don’t let us know of their baby strollers or special needs. We’re willing to accommodate. Find out what you’re getting yourself into. I think we’re
all adults, and if you treat us with respect you’ll get it back.

· The Gatekeepers [~E~]

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