New York City restaurateur transforms COVID supply store into Italian cocktail bar
In 2020, Tony Park, the mastermind behind NYC favorites like Angelina Bakery and Antoya Modern Korean Barbecue, made plans to open a restaurant at 41 West 35th Street in Midtown. Park quickly shifted gears and turned the location into the CV19 Essential Store and the “Safe Zone” Interactive Experience Center in September 2020.
“It didn’t make sense to open a restaurant that I couldn’t open,” Park said.
The CV19 Essential Store sold a variety of products and gadgets aimed at helping restaurants and businesses reopen safely in the second half of 2020, including plexiglass, portable UV lights and air purifiers, antimicrobial films, devices thermal facial recognition and mobile phone. sterilizers
“We decided to focus on the needs of the restaurant at that time. It was when the pandemic started and it wasn’t just about being able to access masks, sanitizer or basic supplies,” Park said. “A lot of restaurants were putting in Plexiglas, thermal cameras, antibacterial film, and it wasn’t easy to get supplies.” .
The store was open for about a year and began winding down once many businesses began operating at full capacity in 2021. Park decided it was time to take advantage of the space and change it to what it had to be first : A restaurant where New Yorkers can fall in love with going out on the town while enjoying a great meal.
The result was Katherine, a new Italian lounge specializing in cocktails and tapas. The site is named after Park’s wife and explores Park’s Italian heritage.
“I am 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 cooking school, I’m an Italian chef,” said Park. “[Angelina Bakery]is an Italian bakery, our central kitchen for a bakery in the basement of [Katherine’s] building It makes a lot of sense that we already have a kitchen in the basement that makes pizza dough and bombolone and all kinds of dough to make the products above”.
Construction on Katherine began last summer with the restaurant opening in late 2022. The cocktail menu includes six signature cocktails, developed by Shigefumi “Shige” Kabashima, as well as a selection of wines, beers and liquors The food menu has options such as gnocchi, penne carbonara, tagliolini cacio e pepe and fried calamari, just to name a few, as well as a wide selection of handmade pizzas.
“It was supposed to be a Korean barbecue restaurant, and instead of going in that direction, we decided to do a high-end cocktail bar because a lot of people are really enjoying the comeback of New York City right now,” Park said. “We designed and built an Italian cocktail bar with tapas and Italian pizza. Our pizza is a special pizza made with rice flour, soy flour and regular flour. It’s almost like when you make a croissant, you fold it before the air 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 get this European vibe,” Park said. “When you come to our restaurant, we have calamari, but it’s not Americanized batter, it’s like going to a European seafood shop.”
So far, Park says Katherine has been a hit in the community. The restaurant recently opened for lunch, allowing more heads to come in throughout the day. Park hopes Katherine will soon become a household name among the city’s Italian restaurants.
“I want Katherine to be one of the top ten Italian cocktail bars or an Italian restaurant in New York City. For Angelina Bakery right now, if you go to Tripadvisor, it’s the number one place on Tripadvisor for bakery and small food” , Park said. “I want Katherine to be like that. I want to be in the top five, the top ten in the city for Italian cocktail bars with pizza, where people can have a quick, comfortable bite with a cocktail.
To learn more about Katherine, visit katherinenyc.om.