Grand Ambition, Italian Style |

Grand Ambition, Italian Style

Those brave souls who venture to open restaurants in the recession-plagued year of 2009 have followed a similar path. Modesty. Restraint. Bars and bistros, smaller venues; lean restaurants for lean times.

But Tony May has never been one to go along with the crowd.
Opening on Madison Square Park this September, his new restaurant, SD26, is the younger, hipper incarnation of San Domenico, a stalwart of Italian fine dining for nearly twenty years. Along with his daughter and partner, Marisa May, he has fashioned the sort of ambitious dining destination this year has hardly seen. Though serving Italian fare at a slightly lower price point, incorporating small plates and bar menus, and losing a bit of San Domenico's white-tablecloth demeanor, SD26 is anything but modest.

There's the decor—an interior fashioned by famed designer Massimo Vignelli. There's the food—a menu which executive chef Odette Fada has spent the summer refining in Rome. There's the wine system—a wireless touch-screen that lets diners page through the cellar digitally, searching by grape, price, and region.

And then there's the sheer size of the operation itself: 16,000 square feet over three levels, with seating for more three hundred, spread over the main dining room (facing an open kitchen), the expansive bar area, wine bar, private dining rooms and lounge. A "food boutique" will display the products used in the kitchen; a charcuterie will sell fine prosciutti and artisan cheeses. It's hard to imagine anything a restaurant could be, that SD26 is not.

Opening day is still a week off, so the restaurant's public and critical reception has yet to be seen. But Tony May has shown that a restaurateur's ambition can break through in even the toughest times.


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