Italian-born designer Gabriel Formento Lauro has lived in Hell’s Kitchen for 20 years. He created Fresh from Hell with his partner, Bryan Ware, “born from our love of healthy food.” This is Gabriel’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was born in Italy but I’ve been in NYC for the past 23 years (20 in Hell’s Kitchen) — and now this feels like home.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
I’m a designer, and in Milan I had already worked for big advertising agencies and design studios, but when I came here I had to start from scratch. I was teaching Italian to pay for my little room in Astoria (back when it wasn’t that cool…), while literally knocking on the door of every design studio in the city.
It wasn’t easy, but eventually I landed the job I was dreaming of, and in a couple of years I managed to become Global Creative Director for a big brand of the largest beauty group in the world. I enjoyed my time there, but I always felt that life is so full of things to be experienced, so I decided to switch to a freelancing role as a branding consultant. Then, together with my partner Bryan, we also opened “Fresh from Hell — good stuff from Hell’s Kitchen”, a healthy food shop. It was something completely different than anything either of us had ever done.
Fresh from Hell is the quintessential Hell’s Kitchen local shop: born from our love of healthy food, it has become ‘the’ spot for the best Açai bowls in the city, and we are so proud to be ‘added value’ for the neighborhood, especially providing ‘clean energy’ to the Broadway community; we have catered many shows (from The Lion King to Moulin Rouge), and when Sara Bareilles posted a video stating that the two things she loved the most were theater and Fresh from Hell, we were ecstatic. Funny story, she even wore a XXL ‘Fresh from Hell’ sweatshirt as a full dress during rehearsal. She’s so nice and funny!
So now I split my time between design work (advertising, visual identity, marketing and branding) and Fresh from Hell. We have a great staff, but from time to time I still enjoy taking orders at the counter and talking to customers: Hell’s Kitchen has such a wonderful mix of humans… it’s so enriching to just strike a conversation and learn about new things!
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
There are so many! Two come to mind: the first month I moved to NYC, I had dropped a $50 bill, and someone behind me picked it up and gave it back to me… I didn’t have much money, and that meant a lot. Great Karma.
Then a group of rats, pigeons and squirrels sharing a meal in Central Park, in incredible harmony — I’ve seen similar videos on IG, but the scene I witnessed was so civilized and cordial… I guess there’s plenty of food for everyone, but if those three predominant segments of the NYC population can manage not to argue and fight, so can we. But truly, I have an NYC moment almost every day!
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
It’s the community, the diversity, the craziness, the energy, the electricity in the air… it’s not perfect, it’s not always in great shape, but it has beauty and soul. It has character. Walking down the streets, you feel that Hell’s Kitcheners and visitors alike share some kind of hopeful joy, a special excitement that it’s hard to find anywhere else on the planet.
Most of all, it’s a place where everyone is accepted: we know recently there have been episodes of intolerance, but the good people of Hell’s Kitchen will always stand for values like freedom of expression, tolerance, inclusivity and respect.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
It’s Hell’s Kitchen, and it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t write songs and musicals, would it now? 🙂
Really, I publish easy-listening pop songs under the name Hypermusical (@hypermusicalmusic) — they’re on all the streaming platforms. I have something like three listeners LOL but hey, it’s music from the heart and I’m not about audience sizes… even if it’s only a few souls enjoying my melodies, I’m totally happy to share.
What else should we know about you?
I love tennis! It’s such a fun sport.
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Gabriel’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Fresh from Hell — 326 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Totally biased, but honestly it feels great to have the absolute certainty that all the ingredients are healthy and delicious… because you selected them! The Açai bowls are really the best in the city: Bryan and I have tried so many others, and they don’t come close to the blend used at Fresh from hell, which is imported straight from Brazil (where the Açai berries are from.) I will never stress enough how much food affects our moods: eating healthy makes me feel happy.
The Jolly Goat Coffee Bar — 515 W47th Street (bw 10th/11th Ave)
Amazing coffee (and I’m a picky Italian) and great vibe — both Bryan and I love that place
Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
I would probably buy a bottle of perfume with that buttery smell of pies being baked… They’re a landmark.
Press Restaurant at Ink 48 — 653 11th Avenue (bw W47/48th St)
Another great spot for foodies. They have consistently delivered a premium experience for many years now.
Chalong — 749 9th Avenue (bw W50/51st St)
A recent addition to Hell’s Kitchen — we love the food and the staff. They deserve all the attention they’re getting. Everything is delicious.
PS Kitchen — 426 W48th Street (bw 7th/8th Ave)
We’re not vegan, but I love this restaurant — the quality and care for each dish is tangible. Plus, they donate 100% of their profits to charitable partners.
You can follow Fresh from Hell on Instagram @freshfromhell_ny. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.