This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
ápizz, John LaFemina's first solo restaurant (he'd previously opened Peasant with Frank DeCarlo), turned five in September of this year. It's no longer much of a secret that the pint-size Ital is one of the best small boxes in the city, especially if we're talking about John's meatballs—or his flatbreads or the evil chicken Milanese. With waits that routinely exceed an hour on weekends, the only way you're getting in here without a LaFemina name drop is to know GM Diego Castillo:
Diego Castillo, Manager: There are 38 seats in the dining room and 20 additional seats in the wine bar and lounge. Usually we are fully booked for the evening, but we do have tables for walk- ins at the wine bar and lounge. The wait for those tables are around 1 hour on Saturday." Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? "Just be polite and I will take care of you as soon as possible. I try to take care of everyone who comes to the restaurant." ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along?
"I would never take cash or gifts for a table." Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? "My favorite customer will always have a table at Apizz. She never ask for any favors and is the perfect customer. Her initials are A. C. The last celebrities that were here were Rachel Ray and Jamie Oliver (the Naked Chef). Before them it was Natalie Portman who luckily scored a table at the winebar. [If there's no room] I usually tell VIPs to wait at the bar and I buy them a drink until I figure out if I can squeeze them in somewhere." What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate? "Nothing outrageous." ...that you couldn’t accommodate? "Some guy asked me to go home with him and his wife, but I had to decline. Swinging is not my thing?=)"
What’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? "The guys who work with me. Lorenzo and Nas the Sous Chefs, Bernal the busboy, and Raul the Bartender. We work six days a week together so we have a pretty good team."