During the summer of the coronavirus, when all restaurant meals are consumed outside, the new flex is flower-power dining.
Making the best of a bad situation, this season’s hot spots are wooing Big Apple foodies with explosions of stems and blossoms. Scarpetta, an Italian mainstay famous for its spaghetti with tomato and basil, launches an al fresco takeover of 29th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues on Aug. 1 (orange trees and a floral awning are promised).
Meanwhile, just opened for outdoor supping amidst an explosion of blue blossoms is the Italian seafood and pasta mecca Marea, helmed by celebrated chef Michael White.
The folks behind the look — designer Alsun Keogh and florist Carlos Franqui — see lush exteriors as the new equivalent of mood lighting and luxe wallpaper.
“Everybody loves flowers,” Franqui told The Post, explaining that the uber arrangement he created for Marea aims to transport diners from shadowy Midtown scaffolding to the bright Mediterranean sea, complete with foam-topped waves and an expanse of blue (all represented by his custom-made silk flowers).
“The idea is to create an atmosphere that complements the food and leads people to forget that they’re in the middle of a pandemic. We all need a break and a beautiful environment that makes us want to leave the house.”
Here are our favorite restaurants offering a taste of paradise right here in NYC.
It took some 5,000 feet of branches and around 2,000 silk flowers resembling hydrangeas and jasmine to transform the scaffolding in front of Midtown’s Michelin-starred Italian seafood restaurant Marea. According to Ahmass Fakahany, CEO of Altamarea Group, which owns Marea, “The idea is to bring color back into our lives as we take Marea through its next renaissance: buzzy, playful and chic. We want to convey positivity for the future, to show that we are still here and still relevant — with our mojo intact.” 240 Central Park S.; 212-582-5100, MareaRestaurant.com
A leafy perch
At a restaurant where the modern-style sushi is accented with cherry blossom jelly and rose petals serve as a raw-fish garnish, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to flower up an underutilized rooftop space. Such is the vibe at Sushi Lab, where a trellis spun with silk orchids will soon be complemented by plantings of real flowers. “While providing social distancing, we want to give people pleasant things to look at,” said Jeremy Poon, the restaurant’s managing director. Proud of his potted greenery, Poon added, “We’re focusing on our guests’ safety, health and well-being. It goes beyond the food.” 132 West 47th St.; 212-432-0000, SushiLab.nyc
Inspired by the warm, rustic beauty of Tulum, the namesake spot at Soho’s Gitano Garden of Love provides an escape to paradise just when we need it most. “Our garden was almost designed for this moment,” said James Gardner of his restaurant, which serves modern Mexican food in an outdoor space that predates COVID. ”We have hundreds of palms and beautiful orchids.” Each dining area out there, Gardner said, “is basically a room made of tropical plants.” 76 Varick St. (entrance on Grand Street); 917-860-6082, GrupoGitano.com
With flights to the South of France grounded, Le District tries to be the next best thing. “The idea is for you to feel like you are in St-Tropez,” said Sebastien Muller, director of operations for the Financial District restaurant by the Hudson River, which has dubbed its outdoor space Liberty Bistro. “We have French food, cool breezes and waterfront views.” Trees are strung with fairy lights, while tables are surrounded by potted palm fronds and hanging strands of flowers — including petunias, dragon’s beard and canna lilies. 225 Liberty St.; 212-981-8588, LeDistrict.com
Some 250 tropical plants create an urban jungle in Bushwick. Outerspace’s primarily vegetarian menu features sungold tomato gazpacho, squash blossom pizza and rotisserie chicken for meat-lovers. Launched earlier this month, it is a pandemic-perfect place in which to commune with nature while sitting at sequestered and socially-distanced tables. Nightly soundtracks are being laid down by neighborhood musicians and artists. 99 Scott Ave.; 718-388-3482, 99OuterSpace.com
The Parisian cafe
On Soho’s cobblestoned Mercer Street, husband-and-wife design duo Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer (collectively known as Roman and Williams) built platforms for the outdoor version of their French eatery, La Mercerie. They hold tables shaded by blue umbrellas, with overhanging string lights and surrounded by planters overflowing with flora — all to evoke a Parisian cafe. “We chose hearty plants that can survive in the heat, have lower water needs and are pest preventative,” said Ryan Armstrong, COO of the Roman and Williams Guild. They range from leafy greens (Russian sage and mint) to blooming florals (magnolias and hydrangeas). The setup, which took only three days to complete, accommodates 88 people; pre-COVID, the restaurant seated just 60. New dishes from chef Marie-Aude Rose include raw tuna with capers, anchovies and olives as well as a merguez sausage sandwich. Reservations only, available via Resy, and the space is open until October. 53 Howard St.; 212-852-9097, LaMercerieCafe.com
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