Falkner — known for her roles as a judge on Bravo's "Top Chef" and as a contestant on the Food Network's "Chopped" — was originally hired to consult on the restaurant's desserts, but in May she accepted an offer to become the executive chef.
The owners of the 225-seat restaurant, which will serve coastal Italian cuisine, gave Falkner a blank canvas, and she designed a menu incorporating elements from both northern and southern Italy, with lots of seafood.
"I'm doing all these takes on bruschetta," she said, adding that she's excited to start browsing the city's markets for locally sourced foods.
The menu will also feature grilled quail with cherries and corn, and clams and squid with a tomato broth salad served chilled, Falkner said.
All of the pasta will be homemade and there will be nods to Mexico, the native country of the restaurant's owners, she said.
Falkner, whose pastries have been nominated for a James Beard award, is planning a dessert menu with tres leches, strawberry rhubarb crostata and chocolate tartuffo.
Co-owner Luis Gonzalez Rul, 28, lives around the corner from the 8,000-square-foot restaurant on Columbus Avenue at West 81st Street. The concept sprung from his own desire to be able to eat somewhere hip in his neighborhood, instead of trekking all the way Downtown.
Rul's venture is a partnership with Pablo Granja, 45, a fellow Mexico native. This is their first restaurant in New York.
"We're going to have two crowds — a restaurant crowd and a bar crowd," said Rul, who added that the restaurant will be open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, with the kitchen closing at 11 p.m.
A cocktail menu designed by Ward III, the TriBeCa cocktail den, aims to entice a young crowd, and the wine list will have 30 bottles under $30, said Enrique Duran, the wine director.
The lower price point means "people can experiment and be adventurous," Duran said.
Behind the bar, which is set to the left of the entryway, a neon orange gazelle sculpture helps bring an element of playfulness to the sleek design, architect Mauricio Zermeno said.
"We want to attract a younger population," he said of his choices, which involve exposed wood, uncluttered spaces, black chairs and bits of greenery.
The idea was to bring the outdoors inside, he said, and make the space feel like an outdoor osteria.
Zermeno said he's also honoring the space's historic elements from the days when it was the Endicott Hotel, dating back to the 1890s, by preserving the brick archways throughout the restaurant, the vaulted ceiling in the back dining room and the bright tiled fireplace.
And though Rul said he hopes to make Corvo Bianco into a "destination restaurant," he also wants to cater to locals.
"We want to serve the neighborhood from day one," he said.