Lo and Behold
Nicholas Tamarin -- Interior Design, 7/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
When Chef Mauro Mafrici finally decided to open his own New York restaurant, he had any easy time picking an architect. His wife, Kimberly Anguil, is managing principal of A/R Environetics Group. Together, after several years of delayed plans and the birth of their daughter Alessandra, they set out to realize Mafrici's lifelong dream.
Perusing the classifieds, Anguil stumbled upon a 4,000-square-foot space in an 1890's former warehouse in TriBeCa. "It said that it had 14-foot ceilings and space for private dining, which is Mauro's passion," recalls Anguil, who met Mafrici in 1999, when he was working at I Trulli, a restaurant near her office. "It was less built up than we'd thought, but we gave it a shot."
The shot resulted in Lo Scalco, a two-story venue showcasing Mafrici's Italian culinary creations—duck prosciutto, veal-stuffed gnocchi—and Anguil's sleek design. The restaurant's name comes from the Renaissance title for chefs of noble Italian families, and it inspired the graphic of a 15th-century woodcut drawing emblazoned on the restaurant's glass facade.
The interior continues the yesteryear feel. An 8-foot-high wengé-stained oak partition separates the entry and bar area from the 60-seat main dining room, where Anguil installed five custom pewlike oak banquettes, covering their seat cushions in taupe mohair. Hanging from the original tin ceiling is a trio of white-porcelain chandeliers in the style of Capo di Monte, an 18th-century Italian porcelain.
Innovative details introduce a contemporary aesthetic. "Mauro and I both like combining modern design and classical elements," says Anguil. In the center of the space, beneath swooping painted-plywood arches, she sliced out of the wengé-stained oak floor a triangle that's open to the 30-seat private dining room below.
Upstairs, tables for two line the triangle. Through a steel balustrade woven with wide straps of chocolate saddle leather, diners can glimpse the private dining room's merlot-painted walls. Piercing the cutout is a custom 15-foot-high stained-oak wine rack served by a rolling library ladder; situated on top of the rack is Antonio Marra's bronze sculpture.
Anguil and Mafrici conceived the restaurant with perpetual candlelight in mind, so finishes and objects were chosen for their glimmer factor. Slim taupe-cotton dining chairs rest on chrome legs, footed silver compotes appoint tables, and gilt-framed mirrors and antique French floor grates hang on walls.
"Many restaurants are too designed. Here it's about the food. The architecture is just a complement," says Anguil. The couple's collection of antique cruets is displayed in a custom glass cabinet, which is near the staircase down to the private dining room. There antique paintings illustrate cardinals sipping wine, the one hint of indulgence in this otherwise immaculately restrained eatery.