On 19th St, the same paintings hang on the walls, reframed and relit in a soft glow. To customers of the old USC, there’s an uncanny effect -- this place is the same, yet different. (Likewise, Executive Chef Carmen Quagliata takes a similar same-but-different approach to the menu, with old standbys like ricotta gnocchi and Bibb salad, as well as new dishes that embody the restaurant's familiar, simple yet elegant, farm-to-table style.)
The 16th St spot was episodic, with one room leading to another. “It was more like you might find a residential space, room after room,” Rockwell says. His challenge was capturing that intimate feeling of dining in a small restaurant-within-a-restaurant in an almost opposite space. Where the old building was low-ceilinged and labyrinthine, the new one is tall, open, and airy.
“New York is all about working with the space you find,” Rockwell explains. His solution was to take the idea of multiple rooms and arrange them vertically, with an open balcony and multiple terraces with communities of tables overlooking the main floor. Custom lighting fixtures hang at the exact height of the ceiling on 16th St. A grand staircase acts as divider of space and a central hub, and gives the restaurant a “kinesthetic feeling.” Meyer and Rockwell decided the entrance should be on 19th St rather than on Park Ave, to emphasize the neighborhood vibe.