Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bits & Morsels

A Cappuccino at Via Quadronno in White Plains, NY.

The good life.
We all know and love Via Quadronno, located on 73rd and Madison, for its authentic paninis and Italian coffee. This past weekend I went up to Westchester for the holiday weekend and was pleased to learn about another Via Quadronno, which just opened in White Plains at 199 Main Street. The White Plains location differs slightly from the location in Manhattan in that it is bigger in space and menu.

Via Quadronno is perfect place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making it a very popular destination at all hours. The vibe is casual yet the atmosphere still feels refined and classy. You can dine with your family or you can watch the world go by with a cappuccino and some delicious tiramisu. One of the owners of Via Quadronno in White Plains is K.C. Lam, an energetic and highly motivated personality with an understated grace and a real understanding of hospitality.

How long did it take to open this location from when the lease was signed?

About six months.

What is Via Quadronno?

Via Quadronno is a street name in Milano. Just like Madison Avenue in New York. We have the original one called Bar Quadronno, which serves wonderful coffee and sandwiches in Milano. It’s about 120 years old. We brought in the same name to New York because they had a very good recipe for the panini. They got famous for it.
Via Quadronno in White Plains.
When did the first Via Quadronno open in New York?

1999, September 9th at 9 p.m. My first check was nine dollars.

How did you get involved with Via Quadronno?

I used to work for a company, another restaurant also from Milano for fifteen years. I started as a busboy, then a waiter, bartender, maître d', and then manager. I went from the bottom to the top, so I learned all the techniques and skills, the quality of the food and the Italian culture.

Owner, KC Lam.
Were you always in the restaurant industry?

Yes. I have been working for 26 years in the restaurant industry. My background before that was interior design. I wanted to be a designer. I never had a chance to go to school to learn that, so I use my technique in my restaurants with the flowers, tables and chairs.

Is it easier to operate Via Quadronno in Westchester than in New York?

Nothing is easy. In New York City it’s a little bit easier to look for workers and find people because the city is so big. I mean quality workers. People who know the service, the quality of the food, the ambiance and how to make customers happy. That’s why I brought in six people from the city that commute to White Plains everyday to tell other servers the quality that I want.

What is your favorite thing to eat here?

I like pasta. One of the dishes I like a lot is the pasta with clams ... also the pasta with bottarga, which is dried fish eggs. The raw fish is also very good. We created this menu in seven days. I brought the chef to Italy to tour about 22 restaurants, so we learned the cuisine. We have a very famous signature dish which is the meat lasagna and the pasta with bolognese sauce. For dessert we have fresh homemade tiramisu.

Do you like to cook?

Yes. I am a good chef in Chinese food. I haven’t touched the stove in about two years. I have no time to do it.

What are your favorite restaurants?

Most of the time I eat in my own place. Besides that I like Japanese food.
The Americano -- brie, mozzarella, arugula, corn, and tomatoes.
What keeps you motivated?

I want to open 99 restaurants. This is my goal.


I just like the numbers.

Do you get upset when you get a bad review?

I don’t. It’s just like wine. If you like the wine it’s a good wine for you. That doesn’t mean it’s a good wine for me. A bad review is one person’s opinion. It doesn’t mean anything about anyone else. I never like my place to have any stars. I don’t like three stars. You get busy for two months and then they move to another one. When you have three stars you have to keep things the way they are. You can’t make any mistakes or they will take the star away and it’s very bad. That’s why I never like that.

Banana cake with toasted coconut.
  Cookies for my cappuccino.
Also you can’t control your employees one hundred percent. Everyone is from a different country with a different mentality. Maybe one day a word or something will slip out and they catch the writer and you get a bad review. People go to restaurants for a couple of reasons. First the ambiance, second to meet people, third convenience, and fourth because of the food. All of this combined makes a place good for dining, so if you use only one of those reasons to give a place a bad review ... it’s not fair.

Also, when a new place opens you have to give it a chance. Every new place that opens in the beginning is a mess because everything is new. Give it a couple of months and then you come back to see if it's good or bad.

The market is not as strong as it used to be and there is a recession coming. Do you think that will impact business?

A little bit. We are in the very high-end food industry. I always say that I don’t buy clothes or a car everyday but you have to eat everyday and you have to drink coffee everyday. So you can go for the cheaper coffee or good quality coffee. If you have a high standard you don’t go for anything lower than that. You can’t eat pizza everyday because it’s not dinner. You can eat it once a week but you always need good pasta and good food. When something goes to your stomach you need to be sure you will feel good.

What is the difference between Bottega del Vino and Via Quadronno?

We have a few levels of the restaurants. Via Quadronno was originally for the neighborhood people. Then we have Via Quadronno café, which we are opening in the GM building for people who work in the building. It’s opening next month in the beginning of June. The idea of the Via Quadronno café is also opening in the airport. We are going to do something in the airport so that people who are waiting for the plane will have some good sandwiches and good coffee. Bottega was a joint venture with the original owner in Verona. That restaurant has been there since 1890. Bottega is more like a wine house with the original cuisine of Verona.
A generous slice of tiramisu.
Strawberry Mousse, Lemon Merengue, Rasberry Tart, Apple Tart, Verona Cake ... you name it, they got it.
How did you first get interested in Italian culture?

When I first came to the U.S. in 1985 I only knew two words of English, "beef" and "Coca Cola." Little by little I learned more. A friend of my father's used to work for an Italian restaurant so he introduced me to a job there as a busboy when I was 14 years old. I started from there and I worked for that company for 15 years. I am the first non-Italian guy, a Chinese guy, running an Italian restaurant in New York City on Madison Avenue.

That’s amazing.

We call it the American dream. When you work it will come true. You can’t wait ... when you wait it doesn’t come true.

Via Quadronno
199 Main Street
White Plains, NY 10601
What can I say? I'm a sucker for Diet Coke in a glass bottle. Organic tomatoes with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.
Pasta with a fresh tomato sauce. Tomato and mozzarella panini.
Arancini or fried rice balls. A look inside the Arancini.
Here is a dining guide for the next time you are in Chinatown. Serious eats has a very thorough guide to the best spots for noodle soup in Chinatown. It’s an interesting read to learn about the different types of noodles that are available. This almost makes me beg for jury duty just to end up in that area for lunch. [Serious Eats]

If you are considering grilling up some fish
in this increasingly warm weather check out this fish buying guide from Gourmet. Besides looking for fresh fish, you also want to buy fish that is sustainable. For example, some types of fish such as Tilapia are more sustainable if they are bought farmed instead of wild. [Gourmet]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

Comments? Contact Jordana here