New Downtown group looks to double up singles


By Julie Shapiro

Actors, musicians and entrepreneurs donned aprons in Little Italy last Thursday night to bake pizza and look for love.

The 32 singles, who were at an event run by the recently launched Save the Date(ing), chatted and laughed as they manipulated unyielding lumps of dough into thin, sauce-ready circles at Il Piccolo Bufalo on Mulberry St. Few had ever made pizza before, and as the dough refused to budge, many turned to their neighbors — seated in alternating boy-girl fashion — for assistance or encouragement.

“I should never make pizza again, ever,” joked a cheerful David Hume, a 30-year-old investment banker.

Hume found more success in the evening’s social aspect, he said as he took a break from a conversation with two women later in the evening.

“We’re unified within the common disaster of making appalling food,” Hume said, laughing. “It’s definitely a lot easier to converse than when you’re in a loud bar.”

That’s the idea Hattie Elliot had several months ago when she started Save the Date(ing) as a way of connecting her many single friends and acquaintances. Last Thursday’s Pizza 101 event was the third she has run, following a wine class in January and a pottery workshop in December.

“New Yorkers, the way we work, we’re so manic and so busy,” said Elliot, 27, who has her own consulting company and is also single. “Our lives are so full. This saves time and effort, because the group is pre-vetted.”

Like many single New Yorkers, Elliot said she asked her friends to set her up with people they knew, but once that pool was exhausted, it was hard to know where to turn.

“We get stuck in ruts,” said Elliot, who has met new friends and a potential romantic interest at the singles events she has held so far.

As the group grows beyond Elliot’s immediate circle, she plans to screen anyone who wants to join by meeting them personally. She is looking for a diverse group of outgoing people in their mid 20s to early 40s. They will pay a $200 quarterly membership fee and an a la carte fee for each event they attend. Elliot pointed out it was cheaper than services like It’s Just Lunch where you only meet one person at a time. The pizza event, which included an unlimited supply of wine and fresh pies made by experts as well as the amateurs, cost $45.

Elliot, who lives on the Upper West Side, said she loves Lower Manhattan and intends to keep most of her events Downtown, beside a champagne brunch and Easter egg hunt she is planning in Central Park in April.

At Thursday’s event, Amanda Mathews, whose husband Alexander Catenaccio owns Il Piccolo Bufalo, taught the singles the basics of kneeding and shaping the pizza dough. Mathews also hosted Save the Date(ing)’s first event at her studio Chambers Pottery, after she met Elliot through one of her students.

Matthews, who has been with her husband for 35 years, said she doesn’t remember any events like these from back when she was dating.

“Doing something that’s not what you normally do takes away any barriers,” she said. “You’re focused on something that’s almost silly, and that’s so disarming, you forget to be inhibited. You forget to be shy, in a way. I think this is perfect.”

Thursday’s pizza event started off with cordial handshakes and typical get-know-you questions, but as the wine flowed — when the line of bottles on the tables were exhausted, full decanters appeared — the conversations merged into the friendly din of a party.

Elliot keeps each event evenly matched between men and women, giving both genders an equal shot. Just as many men as women express interest in the events, Elliot said, but it often takes last-minute finagling to keep the balance perfect when people get sick or want to bring a friend.

“It’s more fun than hanging out with our married friends,” said Peter O’Connor, 34, an actor who said he’d always wanted to learn to make pizza.

“It’s assumed familiarity, like being back in college,” he said. “Everyone’s vouched for.”

The pizza workshop had a more relaxed vibe than other singles events, like speed-dating, which tend to feel more forced, several people said.

“This feels like a party where there are a lot of cool people, and there just happens to be the same number of girls and guys,” said Pete, a 39-year-old TV writer and producer who did not want to give his last name. The advantage of a screened event is that “most likely, no one’s going to be a complete psychopath,” he said.

“The massive amount of wine doesn’t hurt either,” Pete added.

Vida Jong, a 37-year-old physical therapist, said she liked that everyone she met seemed easygoing and confident.

“And at the very least, if I don’t meet somebody, I learned something,” Jong said.

One couple deep in conversation as the evening wound down was so focused on their discussion of poetry that they barely noticed a reporter’s approach.

Katy Gunn, a musician, and Shomit, 30, a floral designer who did not want to give his last name, both said the walls automatically came down because everyone knew everyone else was single.

“There’s no real pressure,” Gunn said, as opposed to the bar scene, where it’s hard to meet date-worthy people.

Shomit added, “You’ve got the alcohol without the sleaze.”

Later Thursday night, once the pizza was gone, most of the group moved on to Ñ, a nearby Tapas bar, where they partied until 3:30 a.m., Elliot said. Many people exchanged numbers, some the next day, using Elliot as an intermediary. In what Elliot calls the best testament to the event’s success, she has heard from nine people so far who are going out on dates.

The group has many upcoming events, including another food-and-wine-themed evening in March. For more information, visit Savethedating.com.