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Chef From Tribeca Grill Picked to Run New Union Square Park Eatery

By Amy Zimmer | May 17, 2011 5:54pm | Updated on May 18, 2011 7:00am
The pavilion in Union Square Park.
The pavilion in Union Square Park.
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DNAinfo/Nicole Breskin

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — The former chef at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Grill will open a new restaurant next year in Union Square Park's newly-restored historic pavilion.

City Farm Café will feature local produce and other goodies from the park's Greenmarket, the Parks Department announced on Tuesday.

"It's a dream come true for a chef to operate a restaurant steps away from the Union Square Greenmarket," Don Pintabona, the original chef at Tribeca Grill, said in a statement. "I am very excited about planning menus around all the wonderful produce that is in season at the Greenmarket."

Pintabona's O-V Hospitality Group, created with Georgio Kolaj, was selected to run the café with a large communal table and full service wine bar from May to October starting in 2012.

The duo run Valentino's on the Green, a new park concession in Bayside, Queens, where they plan to build an urban farm for that restaurant.

Kolaj and his brother own the Famous Famiglia Pizzeria restaurant chain. Pintabona had been a leading force behind the "Operation Chefs with Spirit" campaign that fed more than 600,000 hot meals to World Trade Center relief workers after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The pavilion, which was restored as part of a larger $20 million project, had been a play space for children, a bandstand, a speakers’ rostrum and focal point for labor rallies and social protests over its 130-year history.

More recently, it served as a backdrop for the Luna Café, an outdoor nightlife hotspot from 1994 through 2007.

City Farm Café has committed to invest at least $1.1 million in the space, the Parks Department said. License fees for the contract begin at $400,000 a year (or 18 percent of gross revenue) and rise 5 percent each year of the 15-year lease.

The café still needs approval from the city's Public Design Commission and the Franchise and Concession Review Committee.

City Farm Café is also expected to host movie nights, readings, musical performances, urban gardening classes and cooking classes.

In the off-season, the space will be used for educational and recreational purposes, including cooking classes, children's book readings, farmer meet and greets and other events that encourage healthy eating habits, the Parks Department said.