UPPER EAST SIDE — Two brothers will open a wine bar with French flair next month on a stretch of First Avenue currently populated by pubs and pizzerias.
Alexis and Thibaut Piettre, brothers from the Alsace region of France, are planning to open Frere de Lys at 1685 First Ave. within the next three weeks. The wine, champagne and cocktail bar, taking over the former Choux Factory space, will serve a rotating menu of French-style small plates made from locally sourced ingredients.
“That’s what the cafes in France do,” Thibaut Piettre said of their plan to change the menu often. “The French get bored with their food very easily.”
The brothers, both in their early 30s, moved to New York City from Strasbourg, France, about 10 years ago. They have spent the past decade working in the New York City restaurant scene, primarily at Belgian-owned micro-chains Petite Abeille and BXL Café.
They started to look into opening their own restaurant about three years ago and partnered with Daniel and Blaga Paroby, a married couple they met while working at other restaurants, to make their goal a reality. The partners were initially drawn to the East Village or West Village, but were put off by the high price of Downtown rents.
When Alexis moved to the Upper West Side and later the Upper East Side, the brothers realized that either of the neighborhoods could be the perfect place to open the kind of cafe they were envisioning — one built around a clientele of regulars.
“New York City is like Paris. It’s all about neighborhoods,” Thibaut Piettre said. “People go out in the morning to buy their bread, they go to the same place every day for coffee and maybe out at night for a drink somewhere nearby. We want to be a part of this neighborhood.”
Frere de Lys will serve small plates based on classic French dishes, including tartines topped with smoked salmon or speck, charcuterie and a variety of quiches. They will include at least one vegetarian and one gluten-free option with every menu.
The 50-bottle wine selection will be more international in scope, featuring options from France, Italy, South America, New Zealand and the United States. Thanks to their purchase of a Coravin System — a hollow needle that can extract wine from a bottle without removing the cork — the brothers plan to offer many of their top-shelf wines by the glass.
Their wines will cost between $7 and $15 per glass and about $35 per bottle, with special selections priced higher. They want to keep the price point accessible to a wide variety of customers.
“New Yorkers know exactly what they like when it comes to wine,” Alexis Piettre said. “We’re working to find a selection of wines that are high quality, but still affordable.”
The bar will also offer a menu of classic cocktails, many using spirits that are made in New York, for about $12 each.
To highlight their native culture, the Piettres plan to launch a program they call the Tour de France. Each month, they will choose a different region of France and feature wine, cocktails and cuisine that are traditional in that area. For example, if they were featuring their home region of Alsace, the menu might include pork sausages, foie gras and several of the dry Rieslings for which the area is known.
The bar’s name is the brothers' other nod to their homeland. Frere de Lys is a play on the name of the classic French symbol the Fleur de Lis, with the word for “flower” replaced by the word for “brother.”
They said that they have already received a warm welcome from the neighborhood while waiting on final approval from the Department of Buildings to open.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from our neighbors, especially our landlord,” Thibaut Piettre said. “Everyone has been stopping by to ask what the space will be and do we need help. That’s why we love this neighborhood.”