UPPER EAST SIDE — A popular Upper East Side eatery run by acclaimed chef AJ Black is serving up an extensive makeover, complete with new features like outdoor seating and a dining room outfitted with exposed brick and butcher block tables.
This is the second round of renovations for Il Tesoro, at 1578 First Ave., since the 3,500 square foot eatery opened in 2011.
The recent changes in the $200,000 renovation were aimed at creating a more intimate atmosphere.
“We wanted to bring a happier color to the space,” but also give the dining room a “more private feeling” said AJ Black, the owner and chef, who was a James Beard House-honored chef in 2013 and was featured on the Food Network.
"I didn’t want a super uptight look," he added. "I wanted to give people something they wanted to see, and something that we were comfortable with.”
Among the new touches are Edison lamps for a romantic feel, Italian mirrors on the walls, comfortable banquettes and tables made out of butcher block.
He also ditched the wallpaper in favor of exposed brick.
From the eatery's new dessert kitchen, chefs will dish out Il Tesoro's homemade gelato as well as the new wine sorbet.
A refurbished wine cellar in the basement now functions as a private event space, where it’s “quiet and cool,” Black said.
The restaurant's new sidewalk seating area lets guests enjoy their meals in classic French wicker chairs, eating amid newly added flower pots that brighten up the block.
“We added more life to the neighborhood,” said Black. “Outdoor dining was something I always wanted to do for my neighborhood. I like it outside!”
And Black is cooking up even more plans: he hopes to show old black and white movies (like Charlie Chaplin films) in the dining room, to give “more relaxed” and “New York” air to the dining experience.
Black said the renovation, which began this April, was expensive but he is enthusiastic about the changes, which he called a “work in progress.”
“It feels good to do something new for the people.” he said “And we’ve had good responses so far.”