Spiky-haired TV chef Anne Burrell thought her name alone would “put asses in seats” at her now-shuttered Cobble Hill restaurant, her partner now claims — but Phil & Anne’s Good Time Lounge had always struggled with business, he says.
Burrell’s partner Phil Casaceli, who also runs longtime West Village bar-restaurant Daddy-O, says that reports that the restaurant “was a hit with locals and consistently busy” are false, alleging that Burrell thought her celebrity was enough to keep the restaurant running.
Casaceli says the chef would do things like sweep outside on the sidewalk at prime times and once insisted on conducting an interview with a potential employee outside on a Friday evening. “She would go outside and say ‘This will bring people in,’” Casaceli says. “Not our our demographic. They don’t care about it.”
Burrell’s rep said in a statement: “Anne obviously disagrees with Phil’s characterization and otherwise has no comment.”
Though the duo started as friends, the partnership went south soon after the restaurant opened last spring. In July, Casaceli’s family from upstate came to dine at the restaurant, and Burrell wanted them to order a set menu — calling Casaceli “a miserable fuck” for asking the restaurant to allow his family to order a la carte, according to text message screenshots.
Other conflicts ranged from what sort of music played to the hours that the restaurant stayed open. Burrell started making changes without involving Casaceli, such as closing on Mondays, Casaceli claims.
The two eventually started talking about a business split. The partners have discussed Burrell buying Casaceli out previously, but Casaceli claims Burrell offered lowball deals, at one point suggesting she’d give him one dollar. In October, she sent him a text saying that if the restaurant closed for good, “I will be fine. You will still always be the miserable fuck that you are,” according to a screenshot.
And although Burrell’s team has previously claimed that Casaceli has not been willing to meet, Casaceli’s attorney sent a letter to her dated November with a request to discuss the buyout.
Burrell and Casaceli have been in communication on and off, but Casaceli did not know the restaurant shut down earlier this month until he tried to talk to two managers, according to the restaurateur and text messages. He adds that its closing alone is a sign that the restaurant was never a hit. “I think she’s just trying to save face,” Casaceli says. “If it’s consistently busy, why close it?”
The restaurateur says he put his life savings into Phil & Anne’s and now simply wants to get out of the partnership. “I obviously don’t have the money she does or make the money she does,” he says. “It’s a David and Goliath situation. She’s trying to make me fold because I have no money, and I have to walk away and lose all my savings. I think that’s what she’s trying to do.”
Phil & Anne’s Good Time Lounge opened at 196 Smith St. in May 2017, taking over the space of beloved neighborhood restaurant Char No. 4. Burrell hadn’t been in restaurant kitchens in nearly a decade but has been on Food Network show Worst Cooks in America. The restaurant was her first standalone restaurant and served a strangely disparate menu that ranged from braised lamb shank to Cheetos-crusted fried pickles. Local tipsters confirm that despite reports, the restaurant was rarely booming with people.