In the last two years, Il Mulino New York has grown from a small, clubby restaurant in Greenwich Village to a brand that spans the city, with outposts ranging from a social beehive on East 60th Street, to a more casual Flatiron trattoria, and, most recently, an Italian steakhouse in Soho, which opened in June. The following month, a South Beach branch of Il Mulino opened, and partners Jerry Katzoff, Brian Galligan and Steve Rao, who purchased Il Mulino from Ennio Sammarone and Michael Savarese in 2010, have no intention of slowing down their expansion. Eater caught up with Katzoff to see what plans they have in store.
We'd like to open at least two in 2015, and would love to be in LA.
There are 13 Il Mulino restaurants in total now. Are there any immediate plans to open more?
Jerry Katzoff: At first, I was reluctant to open a second Il Mulino here because I thought it would have a negative effect on the first, but it didn't, and we are going to continue to grow the brand. We'd like to open at least two in 2015, and would love to be in LA, so we are looking for a location in Beverly Hills, as well as scouting for new locations in New York, Las Vegas and Orlando, because we are doing well in those cities.
Where are you looking in New York?
Katzoff: We are searching for space in the east 80s and 90s, and for something on the Upper West Side. It's a hard decision because we don't want to compete with ourselves on 60th Street. We do really well in small crowded spaces, so we've been trying to take the space of an existing restaurant that's not more than 3,000 square feet. We were close to a deal across from Lincoln Center, but that didn't wind up working out.
On what basis are you picking the neighborhoods?
Katzoff: Very carefully! When we opened in Atlanta we were sold a bill of goods that Atlanta downtown was becoming a restaurant mecca, but people don't go downtown weekends. Then, in Chicago we were a block or two off where everybody went. The key is to be in affluent areas where there are other high-end places that don't compete with an Italian restaurant.
What about the new concepts?
Katzoff: We tested the steak concept in Soho, and it's being well received, so we want to do more of those. A lot of the food is the same as the original Il Mulino — we use the same sauces and pastas — but we have five or six steak items. We expected it to take off in the fall, but the numbers we did over the summer were great. In New York I think people expected the trattoria to be more like 60th Street, and it isn't, but we are trying to perfect and grow that. The obstacle has been educating people that the tastes are the same. Lunch at Il Mulino on 60th Street is going to be expensive, and at the trattoria it's more affordable, but most people don't realize we are there. It takes time and it's picked up in the last couple of weeks. We can open it in malls and smaller cities, or suburban locations using the name at a lower price point.
What about the original on West 3rd Street? Any plans for that?
Katzoff: In our growth plan we are looking at the ones we've had for a long time as well as the new ones, so 3rd Street and Long Island are getting spruced up. We've owned 3rd Street for 12 years, so it's time. We will freshen up carpeting, get new tables and more comfortable chairs, and change the wallpaper, which has been there since the 30s! History is part of what makes us famous, but in today's modern world it needs to be uplifted.