Chef Michael White to Open Cafe Next to Osteria Morini in SoHo

By Rosa Goldensohn on June 6, 2014 8:48am 

 Osteria Morini's fazzoletti filled with sheep's milk ricotta and citrus, garnished with nettle pesto.
Osteria Morini's fazzoletti filled with sheep's milk ricotta and citrus, garnished with nettle pesto.
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Facebook/Osteria Morini

SOHO — Chef Michael White is launching a new eatery in SoHo — and it will be right next to his high-end Italian restaurant Osteria Morini.

White plans to open Caffe Morini & Enoteca, a relaxed small-plates spot, at 216 Lafayette St., right next to the more formal Osteria Morini, which he opened in 2010, a representative said.

The cafe will be a "unique, high quality, affordable, warm and friendly meeting place for people to gather and enjoy small plates of delicious food," Brian Lauck, general counsel for White’s Altamarea restaurant group, told DNAinfo New York in an email.

White had initially hoped to expand Osteria Morini into the adjacent Lafayette Street space, but neighbors objected to that plan, worried that it would turn their block into a rowdy “restaurant row.”

In response to residents' concerns, Community Board 2 rejected White's liquor license application for the expanded restaurant in 2012, as well as his request for a zoning change to allow a restaurant in 216 Lafayette St.

Osteria Morini responded by taking the State Liquor Authority to court last year in an attempt to win a liquor license for the expanded restaurant, but the judge dismissed the case, records show.

White did win the zoning change he had requested, though. In February 2013, the city's Board of Standards and Appeals approved White's request to use the formerly manufacturing space for a restaurant — as long as there is "no interior connection" between the new restaurant and the adjacent buildings, documents show.

The Board of Standards and Appeals' ruling effectively barred White from expanding Osteria Morini into 216 Lafayette St., by forbidding an interior connection between the spaces.

But it cleared the way for him to open a new restaurant there as long as he met certain guidelines, including an 11 p.m. closing time on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The space is also limited to 40 seats on the ground floor and 45 seats in the basement, documents show. 

The Board of Standards and Appeals placed the restrictions on the space based on the community's concerns that a larger venue would be "out of context with the surrounding area," according to BSA documents.

In addition to Osteria Morini, White and co-owner Ahmass Fakahany already have six other establishments in the city, including high-end spots Marea and Ai Fiori and pizza joint Nicoletta.

The restaurateurs will appear before Community Board 2 June 10 in an attempt to win the board's support for a beer and wine license for Caffe Morini & Enoteca.

The new cafe will likely open by the end of the year, a spokeswoman said.

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