The Spaniard’s PJ Calapa will head up the kitchen at the 15-year-old Italian seafood spot Marea — reopening October 9 for lunch and dinner service — after the restaurant closed for the summer for an infrastructure upgrade and design overhaul. Calapa is returning to the Altamarea Group where he helped open Ai Fiori with chef Michael White in 2011, which was awarded three stars from the New York Times and a Michelin star that same year.
Calapa left the group after six years to open the Spaniard (where he’s still a partner) and the now-closed Southern Italian restaurant, Scampi. At Marea, Calapa will work with executive chef of the group, Lauren DeSteno, who was a chef for Marea under White, and then stepped into the executive chef position for the restaurant group once White left after 2021.
On Calapa’s return to the restaurant group, “It was the right time both ways,” says Ahmass Fakahany, founder of Altamarea Group. Marea lost its Michelin star last fall.
Calapa’s return coincides with White opening a restaurant in Midtown, along with Four Twenty Five, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s newest restaurant, opening late October with Jonathan Benno in the kitchen. (Other big projects are in the works in the area, such as one from David Burke, as well as one from the Rosemary’s team). Midtown had been a power corridor pre-pandemic but has yet to bounce back.
Marea’s updated menu features a raw bar, seafood salads, pastas and risotto, and a collection of seafood and fish dishes ($50 to $97). New dishes for fall include Spanish mackerel crudo and a lamb agnello with ratatouille and squash blossom. Expect an even more luxury-focused dining experience than it had been, though at $35 for the raw bar, $29 to $38 for antipasti, and $42 for pasta, they’re about the same as they had been a year ago.
In the dining room, the team is going for “an ambiance designed to transport guests from the dining room straight to an elegant evening aboard a beautiful yacht,” according to a press release. The restaurant has updated wood paneling and flooring, upgraded the kitchen, and incorporated new design details like new 1946 Eero Saarinen-designed chairs made for the restaurant. “The end goal,” reads the press release, is to feel “a little more pampered.”
Ahmass Fakahany and Michael White formed Altamarea Group in 2009, starting with Marea; the partners split by 2021. Today under Fakahany, Altamarea Group owns 20 restaurants worldwide, including several in New York, Washington D.C., Dubai, Istanbul, Riyadh, and New Delhi.