Thursday, June 3, 2010
Interview: Paul Kennedy of Belleville
AAF: I was just looking at Belleville's Dinner Menu on an empty stomach. Now I'm starving and my stomach is growling! What is your favorite item on the menu and why?
PK: We are constantly changing all of our menus, so it's tough to say. If I was to order something right now off of the dinner menu, it would have to be the cod. I ran a fish market for years so fresh seafood is a must for me... and the chef pairs it with a black olive potato puree, and tomatoes and spinach from the farmer's market drizzled with a light vinaigrette. It's such a simple dish, but with amazing flavor. The same with the eggplant salad, it's so far from complex... you can taste all of the ingredients individually. For brunch, besides the croissants, the Mediterranean Eggs are definitely a favorite. People tend to forget how much Mediterranean influence there is, and always has been, in French cuisine. That's why you'll often see gnocchi, risotto, etc. in French restaurants.
AAF: Belleville has been a staple along Fifth Avenue for some time but
now you have a lounge in the back. What inspired you to open it and how are things going?
PK: We felt it was time. Business increased tremendously when we changed ownership and we needed the space. We also felt that we wanted to expand, but with something a little different. So it's still 'Belleville', but it's Belleville Lounge. It's a place for live music, comedy, storytelling, etc. We also put a twist on the menu, offering French-style tapas in addition to our restaurant menu. As for the location, it only made sense. We are fortunate to share a kitchen with the restaurant, which, in turn, allows us to have an even more affordable menu because of less overhead.
AAF: We like to ask this of all of our local restaurant/bar owners: What are some of the biggest challenges of opening and running a restaurant in New York City?
PK: What isn't a challenge? There are challenges in all businesses. I don't go a single day without a handful of challenges. The biggest challenge for me is always the one right in front of me, at that time. Would I recommend the business to anyone? Never in a million years. Do I love it? Absolutely!
AAF: When (or if) you have free time away from the restaurant, where do
you shop and eat along Fifth Avenue? Any favorites?
PK: Well, time off isn't often (see question 3). Luckily I live a block from Belleville so my commute is about a 3 minute walk. I did take off recently and bought some great items for my place at Bob and Judi's. Stone Park is extremely close so I do get to frequent them quite often and when I'm not in a rush I can stroll down to Bogota for a great meal!
Belleville: 330-332 Fifth Street @ 5th Avenue