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Restaurant Openings

Week of June 11, 2007: Hill Country, Caffè Emilia, and Park Avenue Summer.


Hill Country
30 W. 26th St., nr. Broadway; 212-255-4544
How’d a nice Jewish boy from Bethesda, Maryland, end up opening a Texas-style barbecue joint? In Marc Glosserman’s case, you spend your childhood visiting relatives in Lockhart, Texas, and develop an abiding passion for the dry-rubbed meats and German-style sausages at Kreuz Market. This week, the onetime telecom entrepreneur opens Hill Country, a restaurant devoted to the culture and cuisine of an area of central Texas that Glosserman refers to as the Napa Valley of the Lone Star state. (There’s some truth in that: Hill Country is an actual viticultural area, and the source of some of the bottles on the restaurant’s all-Texan list.) The first-time restaurateur has recruited a seasoned barbecue team, including southern-food specialist Elizabeth Karmel, and pitmaster Robbie Richter, a Queens backyard barbecuer turned competition-circuit savant. Glosserman is sourcing several items straight from Texas, including Kreuz sausages, Big Red soda, Blue Bell ice cream, and the post oak wood he’s using to fire three Ole Hickory smokers. The dry-rubbed brisket, beef shoulders, and ribs that emerge from them will be sliced at a counter, served on butcher paper, and priced by weight, all to be tallied up on a meal ticket and paid for at the cashier on the way out. As at Katz’s Deli, you’re strongly encouraged not to lose your ticket. “They have turnstiles and big security guards,” says Glosserman. “We’re not gonna do that.”

Caffè Emilia
139 First Ave., nr. 9th St.; 212-388-1234
Caffè Emilia, a sliver of an East Village spot, is designed to fulfill all your impromptu Italophile needs: from mid-morning espresso gulped at the pastry counter to porchetta panino savored over a copy of La Gazzetta dello Sport in the tiny backyard garden. The menu is categorized by the type of bread (some of it baked by Falai Panetteria) that the sandwiches are made on, ranging from pizza bianca (mortadella and provolone) to semidolce (salami, butter, and mayo). This is an Emilia-Romagnan café, the third venture from Modena native (and Gnocco and Perbacco partner) Gian Luca Giovanetti, so there are several versions of that region’s chewy flatbread, piadina, both savory and sweet. In the near future, various permits pending, there will also be an expanded menu of grilled meats and fish, and a Prosecco-heavy wine list.

Park Avenue Summer
100 E. 63rd St., at Park Ave.; 212-644-1900
Do restaurants, like people, need to keep reinventing themselves to stay fresh? Michael Stillman, son of Alan and scion of the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, tests that hypothesis with Park Avenue Summer, the reinvented Park Avenue Cafe. In collaboration once more with AvroKO, the design firm responsible for Manhattan Ocean Club’s transformation into Quality Meats, Stillman is borrowing a conceptual page from the Four Seasons’ book, virtually creating a new restaurant every three months. Seasonality dictates not only the American menu, which is overseen by Quality Meats’ Craig Koketsu, but the place settings, the uniforms, the graphics, the wine displays, and most of all the décor. Convertible panels slide into steel wall frames, a variable lighting plan allows for dramatic shifts in ambience, and furniture is rigged for effortless fabric changes. But this is one new restaurant that isn’t built for the long haul: In early September, it shuts down to make way for Park Avenue Autumn.


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