De Maria — the stylish all-day cafe that quickly became a must-visit for the Instagram and fashion set since opening last year — has closed. Bowery Boogie reports that the Nolita restaurant, located at 19 Kenmare St. between Elizabeth Street and Bowery, ended service over the weekend.
But the ending doesn’t sound like it was a clean affair. Chef Adriana Urbina, who joined the restaurant after opening chef Camille Becerra left earlier this year, posted a statement to Instagram saying that the closure was in part due to “lack of transparency and professionalism from the owner.” “This was unfair not just to me but [to] the whole team,” she writes.
Though creative director Grace Lee is listed as a partner on the website and mentioned in all the opening press, couple Steph Bragg and Sowrabh “Sab” Sharma are the only two owners listed for the business, according to the restaurant’s liquor license.
In February, Sharma pleaded guilty to visa fraud and tax crimes at his two IT staffing and consulting companies, SCM Data Inc. and MMC Systems Inc. But Sharma did not initially respond to a question about whether the conviction — which carries a fine of up to $250,000 per charge — had to do with the closure. He says that the restaurant closed because the lease ended and it faced a rent increase. Update: Sharma also owned Ken and Cook, which was in the space previously, according to Sharma, and has had a ten-year lease that started in 2008. He adds that the conviction had nothing to do with the closure. Update Sept. 9 : Bragg also adds that the closure had only to do with the lease. Though Sharma is listed on the liquor license as an owner and spoke with Eater as an owner of the restaurant, Bragg now tells Eater that she was the sole owner of De Maria. Sharma had written in a previous email that Bragg “is an officer of the company , has little involvement with the operations” [sic].
De Maria opened early 2017, and shortly after, a T magazine profile on then-chef Camille Becerra and creative director Grace Lee helped launch the colorful, chic all-day spot into a destination for diners obsessed with aesthetics. Its blonde wood, pastel colors, geometric paintings, and the now-famed Virgin Mary art in the bathroom with blue neon lights helped define restaurant design in the last year. The work from designers the MP Shift at this restaurant ultimately earned the company a James Beard Award for outstanding restaurant design.