W52nd Street restaurant enthusiasts mourning Warkop’s closure, Casellula’s demise and a fire shutting down the popular Danji may grieve further at the news that well-loved French cafe La Bergamote has shut its doors. But there’s light at the end of the side street, because the team behind Ardesia Wine Bar is planning to replace La Bergamote with a new daytime cafe that will keep the corridor humming with hospitality.
A traditional patisserie and restaurant originally founded on 21st Street in 1998 by Romain Lamaze and pastry chef Stephane Willemin, La Bergamote expanded to a second location in Hell’s Kitchen in 2008, where customers enjoyed their coconut-chocolate crème brulée and pistachio-hazelnut mousse. “It is with sadness that we are closing this Hell’s Kitchen location after 15 years,” Chef Romain told W42ST. “We have seen the neighborhood grow, met a lot of interesting and nice people, but with our lease ending and the difficulties to run a business, we decided it was time to move on. We will miss this place.”
Ardesia, which opened just after La Bergamote, directly across W52nd Street, plans to expand its current offerings of wine and curated bites into a New American daytime cafe model, slated to open later this summer, said owner Mandy Oser. “When La Bergamote decided not to renew their lease, the landlords — Avalon Bay — approached us,” she said. “They have always been intentional about the communities they want to create in and around their buildings — so when they learned that La Bergamote wasn’t continuing, it was important to them to find someone who could bridge that gap. We’re looking to do something that is serving the community in the way we do at Ardesia, but during the daytime.”
The menu won’t be a replica of La Bergamote’s cuisine — “I’m a Francophile, but I’m not French!” said Mandy, “like everything we like to do here, often it’s something familiar with a twist.” They plan to make minor changes to the space, which “you would never believe is 15 years old — it’s beautiful,” she added, and to put their own stamp on a brunch and lunch cafe with takeout, delivery as well as grab-and-go options. “We want to focus on the daytime operation initially and nail that top to bottom, but I think with time, if there are certain collaborations we could do in the evening with Ardesia — why the heck not? I think nothing’s off the table,” explained Mandy.
“We want to build off the community that La Bergamote has created,” added Mandy, who believes it is important to keep W52nd Street’s history of much-loved restaurants alive. “Certainly, we are seeing a lot of change along 52nd Street — anytime a restaurant closes its doors, there is a sense of loss. But the good news is, along with the closures we have seen, there is a tremendous amount of renewal underway.” Just down the block, work on Frena, taking over the shuttered Taboon space is moving apace, while Casellula is to become The Red Stache, a new concept from local proprietor Ted Arenas.
Mandy is holding out hope for the return of Danji, the first Michelin-starred Korean restaurant in the US and the victim of a blaze at a Hell’s Kitchen Smoke Shop late last month. W42ST has reached out to the team at Danji to inquire about a potential reopening date. In the meantime, the restaurant’s chef Hooni Kim took to Instagram, urging fans of the cafe to support his sister restaurants.
“Everyone loves Danji,” added Mandy, “and no one wants to see it close. I hope we can emphasize that everyone should try to support their other endeavors as much as they can. And the minute they reopen, I think we’ll see a huge outpouring!”
Mandy and the team at Ardesia are rooting for the whole of W52nd Street, “a really special corner of Hell’s Kitchen.” She recalled a 2011 article in The New York Times about the growth of a once-deserted block, noting the piece as “still so fresh.”
“W52nd Street is still such a vibrant block where old and new intersect, where so many different types of people co-mingle,” said Mandy, reflecting on the cultural progress made over the decade with the advent of MCC, Intar, ART New York, Ensemble Studio and Irish Arts Center, who have employed Ardesia as concessionaires for the state-of-the-art space. “It’s a mini-Theater District,” said Mandy. “And I love that it shifts all the way to the end of the block — this used to be the middle of nowhere. People said, ‘You’re crazy to open here!’ Things have shifted since then, and who knows what else will come in,” she added. “I think all of us who are doing new things on the block are part of W52nd’s new chapter –– and the next iteration of the story of this block will be written about!”