Hospitality giant ESquared is jumping back into the fast-casual game this week, this time with an Italian, pasta-focused fast-casual restaurant in Nolita called The Sosta.
ESquared creative director Samantha Wasser, who co-founded the company’s first fast-casual hit By Chloe, has teamed up with chef Ali LaRaia for the new restaurant at 186 Mott Street, opening Thursday, July 13th. Like with By Chloe, the restaurateur-chef duo have created an Instagram-baity space and want to expand The Sosta across the city and country.
Here, LaRaia — who previously ran a cookie company — has come up with a menu with five different preset pasta dishes, including a bucatini arrabbiata with cherry tomato and hot cherry peppers and a paccheri Bolognese with beef, pancetta, carrot, thyme, rosemary, and milk. Pasta is made each day at the restaurant, and for a surcharge, The Sosta can replace the wheat flour-based pasta with zucchini noodles or gluten-free pasta. Portions start at $8 and are made to order.
The menu rounds out with four salads, a “seasonal farro bowl,” antipasto selections, and focaccia sandwiches with fillings like mozzarella or tuna and green goddess dressing. Eventually, weekend brunch with options such as breakfast spaghetti will be added. Take a look below for the full menu.
The 40-seat space has cutesy pale pink banquettes, pink prints on the wall, and a giant pink sign that says “Mangiano, Baby!”, or Italian for “eat.” The menu, too, has a dusty rose print, and the 20 seats outdoors are accompanied by pink umbrellas — basically factory engineered for Instagram, much like the Wasser-run By Chloe.
Wasser and LaRaia said they connected about two years ago after LaRaia was inspired by a road trip through Italy, where she stopped into many restaurants for quick espresso, fresh cheese, and pasta. “It’s quick. It’s fresh. It’s very accessible,” LaRaia says. The Sosta, which serves all its food in disposable containers, is supposed to reinforce that.
Of course, ESquared is not the only one to jump on the new fast-casual Italian idea. Acclaimed pasta chef Mark Ladner left his position at fine dining restaurant Del Posto to launch a fast-casual restaurant called Pasta Flyer. It has yet to open.
Both Wasser and LaRaia say that The Sosta is not like Pasta Flyer — they expect it to have more of an evening crowd, Wasser says. It also is intended to be a full Italian fast-casual, with people coming in for wine and antipasti as well as pasta. Plus, Wasser adds, “It shows there is a demand for this. People want good quality Italian food at an affordable price point.”
This will be the second fast-casual restaurant founded by Wasser, her father Jimmy Haber’s company ESquared (the company behind BLT Steak and BLT Prime), and a partner chef. Earlier this year, Wasser and vegan celebrity chef Chloe Coscarelli dramatically ended their relationship after a lawsuit, and despite the mini-chain’s name, Coscarelli no longer works at the company.