According to the New Age philosophy known as Human Design — a Gwyneth Paltrow-endorsed remix of the Myers-Briggs test that pulls from astrology, chakras, and the I Ching — Jeff Katz is a manifestor. What does that mean exactly? “I’m not an expert,” the acclaimed restaurateur behind Crown Shy and Saga admits, but his wife has been telling him as much for years, and a professional “reading” last year confirmed her suspicions. If Goop is to be trusted, his foresight is top-notch.
Katz talks around manifestors, reiki healing, energy work, and the reason he burned that sage last year from the dining room at Al Coro, an upscale Italian restaurant he and chef Melissa Rodriguez have been dreaming up for the last decade — mostly while working in the dining room and kitchen that came before it. It opens on June 22.
“We didn’t sit down on day one and say, ‘Okay, what are we doing here?’” he says. “We’ve been having these conversations for years. We manifested this.”
The restaurant at 85 10th Avenue, between West 15th and 16th streets, was most recently home to Del Posto, the Italian fine dining institution from the Bastianich family and chef Mario Batali that closed unceremoniously last year. At that time, Katz and Rodriguez were effectively running the show — as the restaurant’s general manager and executive chef, respectively — but they knew they needed to be owners to shape the future they wanted. Or move on from the complicated past they didn’t.
Things started to come together in 2021, after Del Posto had been temporarily closed for a year, and the Bastianichs agreed to sell their stake in the restaurant to Katz, Rodriguez, and chef James Kent. (Kent recently split from Al Coro and Katz to run Crown Shy, Saga, and Overstory independently, leaving Katz to run Al Coro and Mel’s with Rodriguez.)
After opening Mel’s, a casual wood-fired pizzeria next door and the first of three businesses opening in the 26,000-square-foot space, Katz and Rodriguez are continuing the overhaul with Al Coro, an upscale Italian restaurant that’s insistent on rewriting some of the rules of fine dining. For one, there’s going to be live bands performing from a small stage above the restaurant’s main bar, a virtually unheard of choice at this level of dining.
Katz wants diners to know it’s not a concert — “You’re here for the food, not to watch the stage,” he says — but he’s promising something more than background jazz.
The style of service might feel more familiar, at least on paper. Unlike Del Posto, Al Coro is counting on the tasting menu to fill its 130-seat dining room: There’s a five-course option priced at $195, and a $245 version with an additional pasta and entree. Both versions begin with seven antipasti, dishes like poached young potatoes with trout roe and fried artichoke with candied lemon that are meant to be shared among the table.
Later on, there’s Sardinian culurgiones, a cousin of the ravioli that Rodriguez cooked relentlessly under lockdown, and a Southern Italian riff on Peking duck that the chef created for an appearance Questlove’s Food Salon YouTube series. Both of those dishes, and the rest of the “hyper-seasonal menu” will rotate often, according to Rodriguez.
How often is often? “It depends on who you ask,” the chef says, motioning to Katz. “He says every month. I say every two months. Some days it’s 24 hours.” To start, the team is trying for every six weeks.
The space itself oozes Katz’s trademark suit-with-sneakers cool (see also: Crown Shy, Saga, and Overstory, the Financial District hot spots the restaurateur has opened). He says he instructed his architects to “make the old space go away,” and the resulting restaurant is a testament that just about anything can be manifested with enough money.
The buildout, whose cost Grub Street likened to the budget of a mid-tier indie film, was financed by an unnamed Bruce Wayne investor whose identity the team refuses to disclose. “It was a lot of money,” Katz says, inviting Eater to “do the math.”
Upstairs, the team destroyed a bar, built a new one, tore out Del Posto’s central staircase, and replaced it with a performance stage. That former restaurant’s somewhat stuffy tables and chairs have been replaced with stylish banquettes, custom light fixtures, off-white archways, and shoe-level mirrors upon entry. Downstairs, a cocktail bar with a disco floor for a ceiling, called Discolo, is set to open later this year.
The team rang in the new chapter with a party on June 18, an overflowing see-and-be-seen affair spread out over two stories. More than 250 people descended on the restaurant and its downstairs cocktail bar to pluck at hors d’oeuvres — versions of the restaurant’s antipasti adapted for cocktail trays — and watch musician Amber Mark christen the band stage as Al Coro’s first live performer.
“We can’t forget the past,” Katz said ahead of the event, “but we’re certainly going to try to make new memories.”
Al Coro is open Wednesday to Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. In the meantime, catch more of the vibe here.