Restaurants aren’t just a place for Jeremy Allen White to brood or a rat with a heart of gold to win over a stuffy French critic, they are now runways for high-end mass-market brands. Eateries in New York City, Los Angeles, and beyond are all upping their merch game and doubling down on staff fits – often with some help from well-known designers. At the sort of triple-dollar signed, Michelin-starred eateries that Resy doesn’t reach, waiters now rock collabs designed to match the banquets.
Frankie Carattini, a Director of Events and Guest Relations (who prefers to keep his clients private and be known as a “boy about town”) says that good fashion is good business.
“Restaurateurs are world-building,” he tells SPY. “They want to transform you and by collaborating with these fashion brands they create a coolness, a rareness, a one-of-a-kind-ness.”
Carratini is particularly fond of the white vests at Sartiano’s in SoHo and the crisp black dress shirts at Via Carota in the West Village, which he says enhance the atmosphere – and maybe even provide style inspiration.
“I think fashion and restaurants go hand-in-hand,” he says, “whether it’s places that just do mechanic shirts with the server’s name on it – a lower tier in the grand scheme of dining – but still doing something kind of cool.”
He’s also a fan of the brown chore coats at Missy Robbins’s Misipasta in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – which are in exactly the right (fashion-conscious) crowd to turn heads.
Robbins had help. The chef has been friends with the menswear designer Todd Snyder for years and had him design the “elevated” jacket for the waiters at Misipasta. The garments he created are a rich camel color that Robbins says echoes the terracotta of Rome and have a generous, boxy cut that splits the difference between Alex Mill and Carhartt. (The coats are similar to Todd Snyder corduroy chore coats Snyder retails at $368.)
The creative harmony between food and fashion is something that fuels a partnership like Robbins and Snyder’s, and is what keeps the inspiration flowing both ways – at least according to Snyder.
“My favorite thing to buy with money is food,” Snyder tells SPY. “I love a great meal… I love discovering new restaurants and designs. For me, it’s always been about the taste as well as the craft. I think secretly, I always wished I was a chef. But those guys work way too hard.”
And Robbins had a very specific vision for what she wanted Snyder to create.
“I drew inspiration from old Italian caffès in which servers were often dressed in formal jackets and ties,” says Robbins. “I knew I wanted a jacket and tie, but I wanted it to be a bit modernized and have an elegant, casual feel.”
That kind of collaboration works best when patrons can leave a restaurant and recreate its looks themselves (just like they might leave and try to recreate the perfect panna cotta after a night out). Before the New American, Lower East Side hot spot Le Turtle shuttered four years ago, the restaurant famously had unisex clothing brand 1.61 design the waiters’ jumpsuits. You can approximate the look through 1.61’s own basics, or easily recreate it by shopping somewhere like Alex Mill, Dickies, or Nudie Jeans Co. Jumpsuits may not be new, but sticking them in the right, trendy restaurant makes them feel more at home in elegant settings than, say, a car dealership.
Robbins’ newest venture is a departure from her previous ones, Lilia and Misi, also in Williamsburg. At those two über-trendy places, the open layout and food brim with opulence, while the waiters recede into the background in their understated, black-and-white uniforms.
Misipasta is the inverse. The small space is dominated by a long, curving counter, the bar flowing into a deli where customers can buy dried pasta and jarred sauces. The roving Todd Snydered waiters and bartenders take up a third of the real estate, adding texture to the visual noise as they snake out from the wood and marble interior into the green of the outdoor seating area. The uniforms are showy and eye-catching, embracing the bustle and maximalism of the space.
If Le Turtle aimed to extract jumpsuits out from under the hood, Robbins wants to take the Europe out of Europe.
The food hits too (get the smoked anchovies), but Carattini says that kind of taste may be secondary. Caratini believes customers forgive slow service and some missteps in the kitchen when a place has the right vibes.
“People remember these little details of service – something like an elegantly designed matchbox, a cigarette holder behind the bar, even writing the party’s name on a large-format dinner menu,” he says. “Humans are very visual.”
Todd Snyder Italian Brushed Wool Chore Coat
A chore coat tows the line between durable and refined, and has firmly established itself as a fall staple in the era of Carhartt workwear. This Todd Snyder is crafted from 100% virgin wool, a common material in formal topcoats. It’s easy layering dressed up or down.