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Donna Lennard Brings a New Chef to Il Buco Alimentari in Noho

Garrison Price marks the first big change for the restaurant in two years

Il Buco Alimentari
[the marketplace at Il Buco Alimentari]
Serena Dai

It’s been more than two years since chef Justin Smillie left Noho Italian restaurant Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a combination market and restaurant that turned into a critical hit. Since then, owner and restaurateur Donna Lennard — who’s known for helping to launch the NYC careers of big players like Smillie, Ignacio Mattos, and Jody Williams — decided not to bring in a new chef dedicated to running the restaurant. (One new chef stayed for about a month before former Il Buco chef Joel Hough took over, overseeing both restaurants.) That’s finally changing. Lennard recently hired chef Garrison Price, an alum of several Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group restaurant Asiate. He’s been in the kitchen for about a month, and soon, the menu will be changing more than it has in the last two years. "We’ll be working on all cylinders this fall," Lennard says.

With the addition of Price, Lennard will be making other changes to the restaurant, too. The alimentari, the grocery portion selling house-made salumi and breads, will be getting a new dining counter — a 10 to 12 seat place where people can eat versions of the goods that are sold in the market. The counter will be set up right in front of the clear case displaying salumis. It will be serving a totally different menu from the restaurant, though people sitting at the counter will also be able to order anything from the regular menu.

The alimentari "makes this place special."

Lennard cares about the market, which she sees as a resource for locals to learn the importance of high quality ingredients for cooking. Using specially sourced olive oil or vinegar or salt can make a difference in cooking, and she wants the market to help people experience that at home. "It makes this place special," Lennard says of the alimentari. But even when Smillie ran the kitchen, the market didn’t quite fit in. Sales never justified the space and manpower that it used. "This is a way of unifying and making that real estate, honestly, work better," she says. The counter will be added at some point in the next month.

In the restaurant itself, Price’s new menu items will be phased in slowly over the next month. The rustic Italian core of Il Buco Alimentari will remain, but expect Price to add flair from his international food training. Sichuan, Cantonese, Southeast Asian, and Mexican ingredients and flavors may find their way onto the menu, he says. The menu will also change regularly, depending on availability of ingredients. "There will hopefully be some surprises along the way," Price says.

Despite the new chef, Lennard doesn’t see the goals of the restaurant changing. She still wants to run a solid and simple neighborhood restaurant. She points out that the original Il Buco has had some 15 executive chefs over its more than 20 years on Bond Street. "It’s not a chef driven restaurant, it’s a philosophy driven restaurant," she says. Ideally though, she’s hoping the relationship with Price will work for the long term at Il Buco Alimentari. She's been searching for someone new for the last year, seeking someone who's both able to manage the size of the operation and has "magic" in the food. "I just think about doing what I do well and have great people join me," she says.

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

53 Great Jones Street, New York, NY 10012 212 837 2622