By Jeff Mays
HARLEM—After a year of rapid-fire changes, the owners of Harlem's new 5 and Diamond restuarant believe they finally have the ingredients for success.
The stylish eatery, at 2072 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, near 113th Street, is debuting a monthly supper club on Sundays featuring a special menu from new Executive Chef and partner David Martinez.
"We literally wanted to do something different and fun," said Lia Sanfilippo who co-owns the restaurant with Selene Martinez.
"We wanted to show David off a bit," Martinez chimed in.
This Sunday's supper club - a $90 four-course tasting menu with live music - is part of a fresh start for the uptown restaurant, which has transformed its menu to feature new American cuisine, with Spanish and Mediterranean flairs.
New dishes to be unveiled this summer include seared scallops with red quinoa risotto and bacon-wrapped Berkshire pork tenderloin.
"The dishes are more simple, the flavors are more bold," said Sanfilippo. "You don't want to see 12 different ingredients go into one dish because it's confusing. You'll see pretty food but you'll know what you are getting."
A new "5 @ 5" happy hour menu on weekdays features dishes such as Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese and either buffalo-style or mango chipotle wings. The restaurant will soon open for lunch. The owners are in the process of applying for license to operate a sidewalk cafe.
"We want everybody to feel comfortable coming here," Sanfilippo said. "Everyone does not want to spend $40 on a meal."
The idea for the restaurant was originally born when the two women talked about opening their own spot after bemoaning the limited dining choices near their church in Harlem.
A friend offered to back them if they were serious, even though neither has a restaurant background. Sanfilippo was a teacher and Selene Martinez set up new Equinox Fitness Clubs.
They spent a full year fleshing out the project.
The location was an old hardware store which reminded them of an old five-and-dime store. A friend said that the restaurant was going to be new and shiny like a diamond -- hence the name 5 and Diamond.
Other restaurateurs tried to discourage them from opeing up shop in Harlem, both women said. "But the only place that seemed to fit and make sense was up here," said Selene Martinez.
The new place has had some growing pains. Two chefs have come and gone, and the owners admit some of their menu choices didn't always click with the clientele.
A little over a year later, the restaurant still could use more customers. The women think the area would benefit from more shops that would lure outsiders to the neighborhood.
Still, the location on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in an area some have described as a developing restaurant row, is convenient for some diners from below 110th Street. It is close to the subway and street parking is relatively convenient.
Inside the restaurant, there are original exposed brick walls and the fabric on the wall was hand-sewn by Martinez' aunt. The wood floors were salvaged from the now shuttered Claremont Stables on the Upper West Side.
"The idea was to truly mix the old and new," Sanfilippo said.
At Sunday's supper club, which is almost sold out, Chef Martinez' menu includes "deconstructed seafood paella" and "vanilla and Valencia orange flan."
Vocalist Gail Blache-Gill, who has toured with the Houston Opera's production of Porgy and Bess, has promised to sing at least one gospel tune.
With the fresh start, the owners remain optimistic about the future of the restaurant.
"This is not about bringing downtown to Harlem, but giving Harlem what it deserves," said Sanfilippo.