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Week of September 30, 2002

When Billy Phelps and John McCormick were building Moto, their Williamsburg bar and café, not only did they contend with construction delays, loan rejections, and, as tensions mounted, each other — they did it all under the prying lenses of a pair of documentary filmmakers. The café's torturous eighteen-month gestation was captured in excruciating detail by Kate Novack and Andrew Rossi in Eat This New York, premiering this month at the Hamptons International Film Festival, where it's sure to appeal to the same audience that flocked to Fully Committed and devoured Kitchen Confidential.

The plot: Two friends from Minneapolis harbor the romantic fantasy of opening a café. They find the perfect off-the-beaten-track location — a decrepit check-cashing joint below the el at the intersection of Hasidic Williamsburg and Hispanic Williamsburg. They don overalls and build the place from the ground up, the same meticulous way they rebuild their beloved vintage European motorbikes (hence the name). They bicker, cadge money, and dream of a subway train's leaping the tracks and destroying the place. For perspective and comic relief, the filmmakers juxtapose interviews with some of New York's most successful chefs and restaurateurs. Keith McNally wistfully longs for his own bootstrap beginnings, Daniel Boulud loses patience with his staff during peak dinner service, and Sirio Maccioni wonders whether it was all worth it. Now that Moto is open — its kitchen turning out an evolving menu of panini and salads, its cozy premises often filled with live music — Phelps and McCormick have put the worst behind them. Those days are gone but not forgotten, and coming soon to a theater near you. — ROBIN RAISFELD

394 Broadway, at Hooper Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Soy Luck Club
In Hong Kong, where Vivian Cheng was born, soy is a basic foodstuff. It is here, too — if you're a cow. Otherwise, it's relegated to faux burgers, dairy substitutes, and aging hippies. But Cheng and her partner John Pi are out to rescue the bean from its marginalized status at Soy Luck Club, their new West Village café, where only the décor is retro. "We want to implement soy in city life," says Cheng, who studied architecture at Berkeley (!), outfitted the café with vintage Herman Miller and Knoll, and lined the shelves with soy-enriched products like cereal and shampoo. Instead of eschewing meat, the mostly organic menu incorporates soy into sandwiches, salads, breakfast pastries, and a Starbuckian line of hot and cold drinks, from green-tea soy lattes to mocha soyaccinos.

115 Greenwich Avenue

· Cuisine: Health food

There'll always be a market for Barolos and Barbarescos, but Southern Italian wines (and foods) are certainly enjoying their moment, to judge by Petrosino, a breezy new restaurant where a stylish fashion-industry and neighborhood crowd congregates at the poured-concrete bar. The cellar ventures deep into Campania, Puglia, Sardinia, and Sicily, and the menu veers southward as well — a change of pace for chef-partner Patrick Nuti, sprung from the geographic confines of midtown's Tuscan Square to sauté caciocavallo cheese, bake jumbo shrimp on Sicilian rock salt, and adorn swordfish carpaccio with golden beets, oranges, and olives. (190 Norfolk Street; 212-673-3773.)

190 Norfolk Street
· Cuisine: Southern Italian


Openings Archive

Week of September 23
Sciuscia, Podunk, Kloe Restaurant, Smoochies Lite & Creamy, Royal Jerk Grille, Village Shawarma
Week of September 16
O Mai, Dos Caminos, Link, Cafe del Bar, Kishti, Miss Saigon and Tacu Tacu
Week of September 9
L'Impero, Mancora, Azafrán, Traffic, Apizz, Belly, Cocette, Kitchen 22

and more ...

Photos: Patrik Rytikangas (1-2), Carina Salvi

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