Pop graphics. Colorful exterior. Pink trays and branded food packaging. Young, media-friendly female chef who established a name through the dessert category. That recipe worked for Samantha Wasser of Esquared Hospitality when creating fast-casual vegan hit By Chloe with chef Chloe Coscarelli, and the restaurant creative is hoping that it’s a winning combination for her latest fast-casual venture, The Sosta.
This time, Wasser teamed with Ali LaRaia, who came up with the idea for a fast-casual Italian restaurant after a series of road trips she took in Italy. “We would stop anywhere along the road trips — specifically the Autogrills and the gas stations in Italy — and be able to get an amazing espresso or gelato or a bowl of fresh pasta, and everything was super local,” LaRaia explains. (Sosta means “break” in Italian.) “And it got me thinking, this doesn’t really exist in New York, and I thought the fast casual route would be the best way to make it come to life,” she continues. “I was looking for a partner to help make it happen, and [Wasser] is queen of fast casual, so we got in touch and hit it off, and now it’s done.”
The premise of The Sosta, tucked in a sunny corner spot between Little Italy and SoHo that was previously a hardware store, is lighter and offers less expensive, high-quality Italian food in a grab-and-go (or stay and eat) setting. “What’s really important about our menu is that everything is so fresh. The bread, the pasta, the cheese — you don’t really feel full when you’re in Italy,” says LaRaia, who culled inspiration from every region of the country. “And it’s so much easier to eat fresh pasta than it is processed pasta.” All of the pasta and cheeses will be made in-house, and the menu will feature vegan and gluten-free options. LaRaia, who founded Marionberry Cookies, will also be serving up her cookies at the counter.
Wasser is hoping to attract the same customer as By Chloe with a similar branding approach, although she notes that The Sosta’s concept is likely to skew a bit older. The interior leans more sophisticated and dinner-appropriate, although the design elements are still fun and attention-grabbing, with a prominent light-pink hue running throughout the space and packaging. An outdoor seating area accommodates around 20.
“For By Chloe I learned a lot about the flow of traffic and people for the counter, so that was very much applied to here,” Wasser offers of lessons culled from her other venture. “But I think that we’ll definitely learn a lot once we open, or what works for The Sosta. By Chloe is kind of like a machine right now, whereas, you know — we’re getting there.”
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