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Portraits of Privacy

Gherardo Guarducci

A SENSE OF PRIVACY

Early every morning crowds huddle around coffee bars throughout Manhattan sipping espressos or lattes or cappuccinos. Generally they are regulars who exchange friendly banter about the news of the day or report on a party that took place the night before. Later on, there’s a familiar group who gather for lunch or a caffeine fix in the middle of the afternoon and yet another bunch who frequent these haunts at dinner.

“When we opened St Ambroeus on Perry Street in 2003 people thought we were space invaders,’’ recalled Gherardo Guarducci the tall, handsome co-owner of St. Ambroeus who is a recognizable presence at all his various restaurants. “Back then Perry Street wasn’t the neighborhood it is now.’’

When we opened St Ambroeus on Perry Street in 2003, people thought we were space invaders

That West Village hangout was the first -- combining a proper restaurant and Italian-style coffee bar whose signature Barbar script spells out the St Ambroeus name on its façade. Over the years the success of these restaurants has morphed into a constellation of Italian eateries that fall under the umbrella of the SA Hospitality Group run by Mr. Guarducci and his partner, Dimitri Pauli. The two men oversee 11 restaurants in Manhattan and South Hampton including four St Ambroeuses – on the Upper East Side, in Midtown, SoHo and the West Village -- two St Ambroeus cafes as well as Casa Lever, in the Landmark Lever House on Park Avenue and 53rd Street and three restaurants and wine bars called Felice.

The atmosphere is unusual for the way they combine a sense of privacy while at the same time maintaining a buzzy vibe, one that often offers prime people-watching. “Every place has its own crowd,’’ Mr. Guarducci explained. “In SoHo it’s fashion; Madison Avenue art; then there’s real estate and finance at Casa Lever and Hollywood in the West Village.’’ Next stop, he said is Palm Beach where he is planning to open another branch of St. Ambroeus in the fall.

[...] every place has its own crowds - in SoHo it’s fashion; Madison Avenue, art; then there’s real estate and finance at Casa Lever and Hollywood in the West Village.

Over the years these hangouts have become so entrenched in each of their neighborhoods that Mr. Guarducci said he has “twentysomethings who are come to tell us stories about their grandparents when they were just toddlers. Millennials are hanging out at the different St. Ambroeuses too.” Longevity of a brand that spans three generations: few restaurants can boast that.

“Longevity of a brand that spans three generations,’’ he went on. “Few restaurants can boast that.’’

Longevity of a brand that spans three generations: few restaurants can boast that.