Sorry, Staten Island: Richmond County won’t be getting its first home-grown wine any time soon.
The developers behind Corporate Commons Three, a 330,000-square-foot office building slated to open on the borough’s Teleport campus in 18 months, have shelved their plans to grow wine grapes on the 8.5 acres they bought from the Port Authority for more than $3.6 million.
Richard and Lois Nicotra of The Nicotra Group are instead planning to grow a seedless variety of table grapes and donate it to local food pantries and soup kitchens, the married business partners said in an interview shortly before local officials broke ground on the site Wednesday morning. Their project will also bring an organic rooftop farm and beehive-to-table concept to the city’s greenest borough.
“There’s not going to be any chardonnay or cabernet,” Richard Nicotra said, attributing the decision to nix wine production to the professional opinion of a professor from Sonoma State University in California.
Not only would the Nicotras’ fledging vineyard need seven years to bear mature fruit, the professor said in a consultation, but the final product wouldn’t be winning any gold medals, either.
“As much as [wine] would be a novelty and it would be fun, we could do so much better growing food for poor people on Staten Island,” Richard Nicotra said.
As for the organic produce grown and honey harvested on Corporate Commons Three’s 40,000-square-foot rooftop farm, they will be incorporated into meals served at the restaurant in the nearby Hilton Garden Inn hotel the Nicotra Group owns. They will also be sold at an Italian eatery planned for the new office building.
Pienza Pizza, Pasta & Porchetta -- an homage to the small Tuscan town the Nicotras visit every summer -- will donate 100 percent of proceeds to Staten Island charities like as does its sister operation, Commons Café, the couple said.
”Besides great pizza and pasta, they have unbelievable porchetta,” Richard Nicotra said of Pienza’s rich pork roasts, which are often sliced and served in sandwiches. “We’re going to bring that recipe back from Tuscany to Staten Island.”
Overseeing the menu’s authenticity, as a consultant, is Pino Luongo, the Tuscan restaurateur and cookbook author behind such Manhattan establishments as Morso and the now-defunct Centolire. (Anthony Bourdain describes his former boss as "the Dark Prince of Italian fine dining, a man loved and hated with equal fervor by the wide swath of New Yorkers left in his wake," in the prologue to Luongo's memoir.)
Pienza Pizza’s outdoor pantry isn’t Staten Island’s first urban farm, but it is likely the largest commercial rooftop farm in the borough, said a source at the NYC Economic Development Corporation, which is collaborating on the new construction it says will create 2,500 jobs.
“It’s a great way of utilizing the roof,” Richard Nicotra said. “They’re doing it in Brooklyn, Queens and even Manhattan, so certainly Staten Island is the greenest borough -- why not do it there?”
Take a look at renderings for the Nicotras’ new office building and grounds in Bloomfield:
Table grapes will grow in the vineyard
A chef at the Nicotras' Hilton Garden Inn suggested an elongated, seedless variety called a "sapphire grape," Lois Nicotra explained.
The rooftop farm will produce honey & vegetables
Asked about the origin of plans for beehives atop Corporate Commons Three, Richard Nicotras said, "I guess rooftop farms and beehives kind of go together."
The restaurant will have an outdoor seating area
Office workers on the campus will be able to enjoy lunch al fresco, renderings show.