Amelia Henderson is the Director of Guest Relations for Epicurean Management, the team led by Joe Campanale and Gabe Thompson that runs the solid Italian operations Dell'Anima, L'Artusi, and the newcomer L'Apicio. Responsible for overseeing the front of house operations for all the group's restaurants, she's spent most of her time at L'Apicio since it opened last fall. Eater recently talked with Henderson about a typical night at the restaurant and what it takes to make sure the front of the house runs as seamlessly as possible.
8 p.m. on a Saturday night, no reservations, what's the wait for a table of two?
You're probably looking at not too bad of a wait. We have the lounge area in the front where you can have a full dinner or just drinks, and then seats at the bar where we can get you seated right away. If you really want a proper table that might be a little tricky. That might be an hour or a little bit more, but there are always cancellations.
Is there any way that I can speed that up at all?
Basically I tell everybody the same thing. Get a drink, stay here, something is going to change. Somebody is going to come in late, somebody is going to decide that they want to sit at the bar or decide that they want to stay in the lounge. If you stay in the building I can typically help you.
What are your favorite customers like?
I love all our customers! I'll give the diplomatic answer. No, what I really like are our regulars from Dell'Anima and L'Artusi that come and try us out over here, as well as the people we've gotten to know through the Avalon building.
How do those regulars from the other restaurants respond to this one?
Well it's kind of funny because they're so different. Like Dell'Anima is so small that when people come in it's like, "Wow." It's nice. It almost feels like we have a grown-up restaurant. We've been really lucky that everyone has been super supportive.
Have you gotten any outrageous requests from guests?
Nothing yet. At this point just everyone has been pretty low key wanting to come in for dinner. I haven't gotten anything too strange.
That's too bad. Have you spotted any celebrities?
We don't comment on any of the people that come into the restaurant.
You got one star from Pete Wells back in December. What was that review process like?
This was actually my first time opening a restaurant so it was really interesting to me. It really just took all of us being on point, looking around and keeping our eyes open for little clues. I think that Pete Wells called in. He said, "I'm coming in for two people." But I think he may have called in from his personal cell phone so we saw it and we were able, I think, to catch him and just make sure that we were not only on it for the reviewer but on it for everybody in the restaurant. It's been a really good experience. We've had a lot of positive feedback so that's been really nice.
How did that review affect business?
Luckily, whenever your name is out there you get nice bump, so that was really interesting. And it was during the holiday season so it really helped us have a nice first three months.
What's the most essential tool for working this dining room?
I would say our team is the most essential. Everybody from the front door staff to the management?especially since I'm not able to be at all the places at one time, I know that when I'm not at L'Artusi the managers are going to recognize regulars and make sure that everyone is well taken care of. At Dell'Anima it's the same as here, it's really the people around the food and the wine.
When you're not here, where are you favorite places to go out to eat?
I live in Brooklyn, so I love Roberta's. I cannot get enough of Roberta's. And then from being in the East Village over here, I've fallen in love with Mile End Deli. It's so good.
And for drinks?
For drinks, I really always love Terroir. It's one of my favorites.
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