Gaia, a new Italian café serving small dishes, salumi, coffee, and pastries, opened at 251 Houston Street (646-350-3977) two days ago.
Gaia, which means “joy” in Italian and also references the Greek god who personifies the earth, is named after its owner Gaia Bagnasacco, who shared with us her philosophy when we stopped in for a quick coffee. “I wanted to have a concept of fresh and natural Italian foods — everything that comes from the earth. We have some products that come straight from Italy, like the spicy coppa or the prosciutto cotto or mozzarella di bufala, but we make everything here. I want this place to bring happiness to everyone.”
The menu features several panini ($5), some salads ($7), and smaller plates ($5-$11), but is currently all written in Italian because Bagnasacco wants people to learn her native language. But she added she’ll soon have translated menus.
The café also features a small corner library. “It has design books and cookbooks so people can sit and learn a bit more about Italian culture,” explains Bagnasacco. “Of course, they have to speak Italian, but they can look at the pictures, if not.”
Bagnasacco previously worked at Staten Island’s Enoteca Maria, the restaurant where a different grandmother cooks each evening. She’s not a grandmother, but Bagnasacco convinced them anyway. When asked why she moved from Milan to New York, she replied, “Life speaks to us. I was getting all these messages about New York from watching movies and reading books and I told myself if there were a place to change my life it would be New York, so I came here and got a loan and opened up my café.”
Gaia is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
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