When Terry Stewart told me that he was designing the interiors for an Italian restaurant in New Jersey – I must admit that I was surprised that (a) a noted New York designer could find his way to Jersey and (b) how he would incorporate his sense of urban style into a New Jersey restaurant that, in addition, to good food, had a sophisticated/chic ambiance.
Determined to prove to me that an elegant and urbane atmosphere and a fabulous Italian dining experience could be found in New Jersey – he challenged me to join him at a client meeting in New Jersey. To sweeten the deal – he was driving and there was a promise of a pizza slice!
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Stewart received his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and has been associated with Pembrooke and Ives, Ralph Lauren and Carnegie Hall. In 2004 he started his own interior design firm and client projects range from New York and New Jersey coops and condos to restaurants.
Café Luna. Delicious!
During the one-hour drive to New Jersey to see Stewart’s current project I tried to keep an open mind as to what Café Luna would present. I was also interested in learning how the restaurateurs selected a New Yorker to design their New Jersey operations.
Located in Old Bridge, New Jersey, along route 9 North, Café Luna is a hidden treasure. There are no bells and whistles, no cutesy signposts encouraging hungry drivers to stop for food – there is absolutely no clue that once you park your car and walk the few steps to this restaurant that you are in for a wealth of delightful and delicious surprises!
The first OMG is the modern interior. An interesting mix of grey, blue and brown, small glass tiles and individual glass ceiling fixtures offers the road-weary guest a feeling that they have arrived at the very right place. The bar is very long and wide with comfortable bar stools that seduce even the ginger ale drinkers to belly-up-to-the bar.
The next OMG are the owners of Café Luna: Vinny Nuccio and Sammy Demiri. If I were casting for Italian restauranteurs for a television series –Vinny and Sammy would get the leading parts. Atypical of the food and beverage industry – Vinny started out to be a fine arts painter and sculptor, attending the New York High School of Art and Design, and Sammy graduated from Long Island University with a degree in Economics. Fortunately for anyone that likes to eat – they gave up their graphite and calculator to present a very attractive restaurant with a Sicilian- gourmet kitchen.
Relationships/Partnerships: Client and Designer
Nuccio and Stewart met through mutual friends and even with seriously different backgrounds, they quickly realized that it was a perfect match. Nuccio has an artist’s eye that envisions amazing interiors for his restaurants and Stewart “gets it” – and is able to translate the vision into spaces that the guests find comfortable and the perfect place for dining on incredibly delicious Sicilian cuisine.
Having worked with interior designers I understand the challenges facing both the designer and the client. In the case of Nuccio and Stewart, it appears that the largest test of “your way or my way” – is the budget. Translating the wishes and dreams of clients to a finished project can often be pricy. Designers are well aware of the constantly rising costs of – everything. Should the tile come from Home Depot or from Italy? Should the glass ceiling fixtures be hand blown or purchased in quantity from a restaurant supplier on the Bowery? When there is an agreement to disagree – who actually gets to make the final decision?
The client /designer dance can be a poetic as a ballet or as ferocious as a boxing match. In the case with Stewart, in addition to vision, talent, a good sense of style, color and psychology, it is his combination of patience and practical good sense that brings the project to a successful conclusion and has enabled the continuity of a relationship that spans many projects and many years.
Dining Café Luna Style
If you love pizza with a thin crust that is rich and flavorful, Fettuccine Pichi Pachi with fresh chopped tomato, basil, garlic and oil; Risotto con Frutti di Mare, a mix of rice and seafood marinara or other Sicilian selections – you will be enchanted with this kitchen. To make New Yorkers feel comfortable, Café Luna offers Brooklyn-style Muffaleta at lunch. The wine list is an interesting selection of European and American wine regions with a few of my favorites: Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige; Cavit Moscato, Veneto; and Veuve Clicquot, France. Finally, there is a reason to cross the Bridge to New Jersey. For additional information, click here.
Designer Defines Space
An interior designer is defined as someone who coordinates and manages projects that range from exteriors (including building facades and landscaping) to interiors (including public space, private rooms, hallways, and closets).
The interior designer is someone who coordinates and manages these projects finding the narrow ridge between the wishes and dreams of the client and good taste – all within a specific budget and time constraints.
This multifaceted profession includes conceptual development, communicating with clients, vendors, construction staffers, city/state/federal government agencies and the overall management of the project from the time it is a vision of the client until it is born – as a restaurant, hotel lobby or private home. This is not an easy profession! Fortunately for his clients, Terry Stewart has mastered both the art and science of this business. For additional information, click here.
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