Freelance health and science reporter (and aspiring actor) Brian Mastroianni has lived in Hell’s Kitchen for nine years and loves the neighborhood’s “unmistakable identity”. This is Brian’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was born in Chile, grew up in a small town in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, but always wanted to live in the city. My parents would bring me here for a long weekend each summer to see Broadway shows and open my eyes to a reality beyond my small town of 3,000 people. I always felt a connection to the kinetic energy of the city. Flash forward to 2013 and I moved to the UWS to be near my grad school program at Columbia. After a year living up there, I moved to Hell’s Kitchen in August 2014, initially rooming with a close friend, and have been in the neighborhood ever since!
What was your first job? What do you do now?
My very first summer job in high school was selling admissions to a living history museum in the Berkshires, but for over a decade I’ve been a journalist. Right now, I’m a freelance health and science reporter (you’ll most likely find me glued to my laptop in one of my favorite coffee shops in the neighborhood!). My work has been published by The Atlantic, The New York Times for Kids, The Paris Review, CBS News and Healthline, among others. I also host a podcast Re:solve Talks, where I speak with a wide range of global health experts about ways we can all work together to build healthier societies. It’s been such an exciting new medium for me to explore.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
In October 2020, I hosted my birthday party outside on the roof of my partner’s apartment building (not too far away — in the Garment District) with some of my closest friends. It was the first time seeing many of my friends since the pandemic began, and there was something so beautiful about reconnecting with some of the people I love the most, during an uncertain, difficult time, with the city skyline around us. A dear friend had recently passed and we toasted his memory. It was a bittersweet time, but I felt so connected to the city and the people who mean so much to me — I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
Living in Hell’s Kitchen can make New York feel less imposing and isolating. There is a real sense of community and vitality to the area — living here for nine years now, there are so many businesses that mean a lot to me, familiar faces I see walking around, a sense that this is “home.” There’s an unmistakable identity to Hell’s Kitchen, a visceral feeling that everyone is not just looking out for one another but for the neighborhood at large.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Outside journalism, I’m also an aspiring actor — I’ve long had artistic ambitions (can I be more of a New York cliche 😅?) beyond my journalism work and have been studying at the Barrow Group (not far from HK!) for the majority of my years in the city now. Excited to pursue other ways to tell stories.
What else should we know about you?
I feel so privileged to live in such a diverse, connected place — a true community. Also, Phil, I’m so happy you’re back and it was so moving to see the Hell’s Kitchen community rally around you. Your journalism and work documenting where we live is so needed and appreciated.
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Brian’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
As Is NYC — 734 10th Avenue (bw W50/51st St)
Love the selection of beers and the overall atmosphere. The perfect spot for meeting a friend, hosting a birthday party, or relaxing with a post-workday beer.
Arriba Arriba — 762 9th Avenue (bw W51/52nd St)
Besides their delicious (sometimes dangerous 🤣) margaritas and dishes (I especially love their enchiladas). At the height of the pandemic, this was a place I loved supporting with to-go meals and I am so glad to see it continue to thrive.
Grind The NYC Coffee Shop — 602 9th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
One of my favorite cafes in the neighborhood. I enjoy sitting outside and sipping a coffee (and one of their delicious bagels) in the nice weather, and working inside with my laptop.
Pier 84 — 555 12th Avenue
I love hanging out at Pier 84/Hudson River Park. It’s right near where I live and I love hanging out there during the sunset.
Mercedes Club — 550 W54th Street (bw 10th/11th Ave)
I’ve been a member of the Mercedes Club since 2016 — I love my gym, the perfect place for a workout, work space to bring my laptop, and seriously, you can’t go wrong with the pool in the summer.
Amy’s Bread — 672 9th Avenue (bw W46/47th St)
Amazing pastries and the staff is so kind. I’ve been in love with this HK institution since I moved here.
Domus — 413 W44th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Another great spot for gifts — love their ornament selection during the holiday season.
Frisson Espresso — 405 W44th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Another fav coffee shop of mine — great coffee and baristas (love their cappuccino skills). Both locations are wonderful, I’ve especially been a fan of their 44th Street location.
Delphinium Home — 353 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Perfect place to find an unexpected, funny, strange gift. A go-to source for birthday/holiday cards.
The Dickens — 783 8th Avenue (bw W47/48th St)
I recently discovered The Dickens and love this new addition to the gay/queer bar scene in the neighborhood. I recently enjoyed brunch there and also hung out at the bar afterward at night and enjoyed the vibe.
You can follow Brian on Instagram @bmastroianni and Twitter @brimastroianni. 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.