NEW YORK — Few Manhattan chefs titillate Narciso Rodriguez’s taste buds quite like Mario Batali.
The designer-cum-gourmand is one of the biggest fans of the cherubic chef — favoring Babbo while also frequenting his other restaurants, which include Lupa, Esca, Otto, Bistro du Vent and Bar Jamon. So Rodriguez naturally jumped at the chance to design uniforms for Del Posto, Batali’s and Joseph Bastianich’s much-hyped Tenth Avenue eatery, which opened last month.
“I was very much into it because of the way they described the restaurant, which sounded exciting and something I’d like to be involved in, and because, well, I am a fan,” Rodriguez said.
Last spring, Alfredo Ruiz, the restaurant’s general manager, arranged to meet with the designer at Babbo. Before long he was breaking bread with Batali himself at Casa Mono, another of the chef’s boîtes, which happens to be a stone’s throw from Rodriguez’s studio.
Creating restaurant uniforms seems to be a favorite pastime of late for designers. In the past year, Calvin Klein’s Kevin Carrigan created the looks at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry St., Cynthia Rowley outfitted employees at Colors, while staffers at Nobu 57 scurry around in Yohji Yamamoto. Rodriguez’s vision for Del Posto’s staff uniforms is as clean and modern as his runway creations.
While Rodriguez says he had carte blanche, he concedes he took several elements into consideration. “It is in New York, and it’s very chic,” he explains. “Del Posto is quite sleek and precise, and I wanted to reflect that. Also, you have to remember that they are reaching, bending and serving wine.”
The resulting looks are unisex and layered. They include a white tailored jacket worn over a white apron with a custom shirt and a steel gray Brioni tie as well as a white shirt with a black skirt from the collection. “What he did is very clean and very elegant, but it doesn’t feel stale,” explains Ruiz. “There’s an element of dynamic energy. This is a very classic restaurant. A lot of the style components try to recall classic elements of dining.”