A New York City restauranteur has opened a new restaurant after previously using the space to run a COVID supply store for local businesses.
Back in 2020, Tony Park, the brain behind NYC favorites such as Angelina Bakery and Antoya Modern Korean Barbecue, made plans to open a restaurant at 41 West 35th Street in Midtown. Park shifted gears quickly and turned the location into CV19 Essential Store and “Safe Zone” Interactive Experience Center in September 2020.
“There was no point in opening a restaurant that wouldn’t be able to open,” said Park.
The CV19 Essential Store sold a variety of products and gadgets that were meant to help restaurants and businesses reopen safely in the second half of 2020, including plexiglass, portable UV lights and air purifiers, anti-microbial film, thermal facial recognition devices, and cellphone sterilizers.
“We decided to focus on the restaurant’s needs at the time. It was when the pandemic just started and it wasn’t just about being able to access masks, sanitizer, or basic supplies,” said Park. “A lot of restaurants were getting in plexiglass, thermal cameras, antibacterial film, and it was not easy to get a hold of the supply.”
The store was open for about a year and started to wind down once many businesses began to operate at full force once again in 2021. Park decided it was time to take the space and shift it into what it was meant to be in the first place: a restaurant where New Yorkers can fall in love with being out on the town while enjoying a good meal.
The result was Katherine, a new Italian lounge that specializes in cocktails and tapas. The spot is named after Park’s wife and digs into Park’s Italian heritage.
“I’m Italian born and raised in Italy. I look Korean because my blood is Korean but Italian is my first language, I went to an Italian culinary school, I’m an Italian chef,” said Park. “[Angelina Bakery]’s an Italian bakery, our central kitchen for a bakery in the basement of [Katherine’s] building. It just makes a lot of sense that we have already a kitchen in the basement that is making pizza dough and bombolone dough and all kinds of dough to make the products for upstairs.”
Construction began on Katherine last summer with the restaurant opening for business toward the end of 2022. The cocktail menu features six signature cocktails, developed by Shigefumi “Shige” Kabashima, as well as a selection of wine, beer and spirits. The food menu has options such as gnocchi, penne carbonara, tagliolini cacio e pepe, and calamari frito, just to name a few, as well as a vast selection of handmade pizzas.
“It was supposed to be a Korean barbecue restaurant and instead of going that direction, we decided to do a high-end cocktail lounge bar because a lot of people by now are really enjoying the comeback of New York City,” said Park. “We designed and built an Italian cocktail bar with tapas and Italian pizza. Our pizza is a special pizza which has it made with rice flour, soybean flour, and regular flour. It’s almost like when you make a croissant, you fold it before the air into it several times.”
For Park, it was very important for Katherine to have the European experience that many Americanized Italian restaurants lack.
“So when you come to my place, you do get that European vibe,” said Park. “When you come to our restaurant, we do have calamari but it’s not Americanized batter, it’s like going to a European seafood store.”
So far, Park says that Katherine has been a hit in the community. The restaurant recently opened up for lunch hours, allowing more heads to get in throughout the day. Park hopes that Katherine can soon become a household name among the city’s Italian eateries.
“I want Katherine to be a top ten Italian cocktail bar or Italian restaurant in New York City. For Angelina Bakery right now, if you go on Tripadvisor, it’s the number one place on Tripadvisor for bakery and small food,” said Park. “I want Katherine to be kind of like that. I want to be a top five, top ten in the city for Italian cocktail bars with pizza, where people can have a comfortable, quick bite with a cocktail.”
For more information about Katherine, visit katherinenyc.om.