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Listening to Nice, France-born all-star chef Alain Allegretti discuss his menu is an exercise in Gallic charm.
“At my new restaurant you can sit at the bar, have a plate of charcuterie, a lamb burger…” the chef says with a French accent that makes it all sound both impossibly romantic and a very good idea. Allegretti’s new restaurant, La Promenade des Anglais, situated in the London Terrace Gardens Building on West 23rd Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues and set to open today, is Allegretti’s attempt to bring what he calls “the glamour, the romance and the food of the French Riviera” to New York.
“We want to be more relaxed than the fine dining experience,” he explains. Having spent his formative years under Jacques Maximin at Restaurant Le Chantecler in Nice and then under Alain Ducasse at Restaurant Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo before ending up at Le Cirque and Atelier in New York, Allegretti knows fine dining.
“We don’t want to be a destination restaurant,” he says. “We want to be a neighborhood place, where you can come two, three times a week. There’ll be everything for that on the menu. I mean, if you want me to cook you seven courses for a grown-up dinner, I’d be happy to do it. But there will be a nice bar scene, a nice communal table as well as the more grown-up dinner. I want people to remember the first reason they went out to a restaurant: the food.”
And what about the food?
“It’s based on the French Riviera with some Italian, Spanish, Portuguese influences: that coast,” he says. “It’s similar to the cuisine I used to serve at [my old restaurant] Allegretti, but taking out a couple of steps, because before it was too complicated, and in the end it didn’t make sense. You have to adapt for your audience. I want to touch people. Kick the complications, keep the structure, the flavor, the taste, keep the simplicity and serve it at an affordable price. The decor, the feeling, the food, the atmosphere will all remind you of the South of France. The value that you’re going to get out of the restaurant is great. We’re trying to be different than everybody else, but still very proper, and with a touch of elegance…just no stuffiness.”
Reports of Allegretti’s physical charms pepper most reviews of his cooking (both are widely acknowledged to be top-notch). He takes it in stride.
“It’s always flattering when someone says that you are a good-looking guy, but at the end of the day, I’m not about that,” he laughs. “I’m not an actor or a model, I’m a chef. Let’s get back to the kitchen, and I’ll give the audience what they want. If they see me at the end and they think I have a pretty face and they’re happy, it’s even better. It’s the cherry on the cake.”
La Promenade des Anglais
461 West 23rd Street, near 10th Avenue
Open Monday through Thursday 11:45 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; Friday from 11:45 a.m. to midnight; Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.