Reservations have launched for Raf’s, a new bakery, bar, and restaurant, from the women-led, Michelin-starred, two-time James Beard Semifinalist team at Musket Room. Raf’s is in what had been the decades-old Parisi Bakery at 290 Elizabeth Street, near East Houston Street, in Nolita; March 8 is the first day of seatings.
Raf’s will be a more casual counterpart to the nearby Musket Room that sticks to the French Italian theme. “It’ll be elegant classics, tinkered to come into the new century,” says pastry chef Camari Mick.
Prior to its life as a Parisi, the Elizabeth Street storefront was home to a 1930s-era Angie’s, the team discovered — the French Italian bakery has influenced the menu at Raf’s, along with the brick oven that’s remained a constant through its several iterations over the decades.
Mary Attea, who has been the head chef at Musket Room since February 2020, is co-piloting with Mick, who has, for the past three years, overseen pastry at Musket Room. Both join Raf’s as first-time partners, alongside Jennifer Vitagliano, owner of Musket Room, and Nicole Vitagliano, whose daughter, the new spot gets its name from.
Raf’s will sell coffee, bread, and pastries heavy on viennoiserie techniques: Look for prosciutto croissants, opera cakes, Paris brest, lemon tonka tarts, and pistachio maritozzi. Past the pastries, expect stracciatella sandwiches with charred radicchio or fennel-pistachio salad. At night, the restaurant changes over to full-service dinner with an emphasis on wood-fired dishes like an anchovy sfincione, a half chicken with salsa verde and fennel, plus pork cheek with braised leeks and walnut pesto. Pastas range from chestnut agnolotti to rigatoni with olives, mint, and lamb ragu. Evening desserts are very Italian, with bomboloni, olive oil cake with seasonal fruit, and gelato.
When Attea took over the kitchen at Musket Room, her menu vision was thwarted by COVID. Attea and her team found themselves scrambling to navigate the place of tasting menus in takeout mode. But Musket Room has had the unusual good fortune of taking off nearly a decade after opening. Led by Attea and Mick, the restaurant has ditched the New Zealand menu it launched with and redefined the dining experience. Today, Musket Room has landed a Michelin star, a glowing Pete Wells review, and, more recently, scored nods for the James Beard long list for two consecutive years.
Before Mick joined the Musket Room team in fall 2020, she was just about done with fine dining. Mick says of her time in kitchens before joining Musket Room: “Especially as a Black chef, I’ve seen my friends leave fine dining because it’s not traditionally a welcoming environment but seeing how Mary runs her kitchen has been eye-opening and how welcoming it is,” she says.
At the same time, she found herself reading articles about how pastry — a job notably a haven for women and queer people — was a profession that restaurants were no longer willing to shell out for. “It rang true and inspired this question in me of what do I do now?” she tells Eater. But as it turns out pastry chefs weren’t going extinct; they’re just evolving.
Mick said she may not have moved back to New York from her family’s home in Pennsylvania, where she returned during COVID, had she not been asked to do a pop-up pastry residency at Maison Yaki. Following that event, Musket Room began courting Mick to bring her pop-ups to a food truck stationed outside their restaurant. Recipes like her focaccia from the takeout truck days helped lead the way for dishes that have made their way to Raf’s.
With Raf’s, Mick has a stage to combine both of her passions, the skills she’s learned in fine dining, with the more casual baking she’s done through her pop-ups.
As Raf’s gets its footing in the opening weeks, Attea and Mick will offer their sweet and savory cooking a la carte — an evolution in their careers that allows customers to get to know them beyond the procession (and price) of a tasting menu.
In the meantime, they’re enjoying getting to know the storied space. “It’s an incredible honor,” says Attea, “to take on the spirit of the oven.”