Niche Niche is closing at the end of January, after nearly four years as a dinner party-style restaurant, and will be replaced by one of Rome’s hottest destinations, Roscioli.
The MacDougal Street restaurant from Ariel Arce — behind Tokyo Record Bar and Air’s Champagne Parlor — invites new hosts daily, pulling in wine heavy hitters from places like Frenchette, Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, and Ci Siamo — up to 300 a year — with a goal of connecting New Yorkers to new and often unusual wines, and each other.
In the spring, Rome institution Roscioli will open in the space with Arce as a partner. And while Roscioli may not be a household name in the States yet, what started as a bakery, Antico Forno Roscioli has been serving Romans pizza rossa, pizza bianca, and breads since the ’70s. The business expanded in 2004 to a second location for Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina, where cured meats and cheeses are the highlights, served with bread from the nearby bakery — though there are pastas and more substantive dishes, too. Roscioli bakery, and particularly the salumeria, have become a must-see for tourists, with the kind of lines you’d expect — yet Romans are regulars, too. The wine-focused Rimessa Roscioli that opened in 2017 in yet a third location, is operated by a different crew using the Roscioli name for dinner and drinks, private tastings, cooking and wine classes.
Niche Niche’s ending is not so much a closing for Arce as a transition: The restaurateur will join folks from team Roscioli who are moving to New York City from Italy. The multifaceted restaurant will feature a Roscioli alimentari with their own products for takeout — “a truncated but robust selection,” says Arce — as well as a Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina-style deli, restaurant, and wine bar on the ground level. Downstairs, it will be a blended style of Niche Niche and Rimessa.
“It all happened really organically,” says Arce at the end of December 2022, a day after the paperwork was finalized. With Arce’s reputation extending beyond New York, “it’s a testament to the relationships that we’ve made through Niche Niche” that has brought Roscioli to open its first permanent location, not only in Europe but anywhere in the world outside of Rome: And it’s the real thing, not a licensing deal.
It all started a couple of years ago when Arce and a business partner took a quick trip to Rome for her birthday. They decided to visit Rimessa, and eventually met up with Alessandro Pepe, founder of the wine destination and head sommelier.
There was kismet between restaurateurs that led to Roscioli’s residency at Niche Niche in December of 2021. Then Omicron hit restaurants hard: “I was using creativity for survival’s sake,” Arce says, and she was running on fumes.
In short, she was poised to make some changes to her work life. So when another visit to Rome in July led to a dinner with the Rimessa folks and a manager mentioned that he and the rest of the crew wanted to open in New York, she realized, “I can help with this.” It was the start of a collaboration between restaurants that took until just a few weeks ago to iron out details.
The Niche Niche kitchen, which is only three people deep, will be primarily turned over to Roscioli, while Niche Niche chef Aaron Lirette will move over to the historic building that used to house Cornelia Street Cafe at 357 West Broadway, near Broome Street, where he’ll open the group’s next restaurant on the heels of Roscioli’s New York debut. (According to WhatNowNY, the new West Broadway space will be a Champagne and caviar lounge, though Arce is tight-lipped about the specifics of her expansion plans while she works on Roscioli.)
“Until Ariel Arce came along, drinking Champagne in New York City was largely reserved for special occasions or for people with more disposable income,” Eater wrote in 2020.
Arce maintains it’s that spirit of Niche Niche that brings Roscioli to New York. “It’s something that [they] believe in as well:” she says. “The fact that this community exists here is why they’re willing to come.” They’re hoping to open in April.
In the meantime, Arce continues Niche Niche programming through January.