Mathieu Palombino has had quite the international culinary career. Born in Belgium, he began cooking French fare at BLT Fish before moving on to Motorino, where he made a name for himself as a Neapolitan pizzaiolo. The original Williamsburg Motorino has closed, but that hasn’t stopped Palombino — later this fall he plans to tackle classic American food at the Bowery Diner, which will be located at 241 Bowery. We called him up to learn about his new spot and see how he thinks the neighborhood has changed.
How do you feel about the gentrification of the Bowery?
There was a momentum waiting to happen. I used to work on these streets. [The Bowery] is a grand street, with three lanes and big architecture all around. There were cheap stores and you knew one day these were going to go. As you know, when a neighborhood comes up, there’s always cool stuff coming in. The galleries, the art — it’s cool. It’s a very interesting place. People who live on the Bowery love it. There’s a positive energy. That challenging energy that I like a lot.
Tell me about what the Bowery Diner will be like.
The Bowery Diner is going to be a diner. It’ll have a diner menu, but we built it as a diner, from the way it looks to the whole kitchen setup. It’s a little too early [to know everything that will be on the menu], but the staples are the sandwiches, milkshakes, pastries, and salads. It’s a fairly light menu with dinner specials. There’s a little bit for everyone. We’ll serve breakfast until 5 p.m., and you’ll be able to get pancakes or waffles. We’re not really tied to one type of food. The diner concept lets us go a little everywhere.
Any dishes we should look for when it opens? Will there be influences from your past restaurants?
We have a great sandwich selection. There are Reubens and we’re doing smoked meat from scratch. And simple main courses. There are main-course salads that I’m happy to serve. We’ll have a raw bar with oysters. There’s a lot of variety. It will definitely be American [cuisine]. There will be some French, yes, and some South American, but Italian, probably not.
Did you have any diners that served as the inspiration for this one?
Not one in particular. I mean, I liked Florent. It had a great feel.
So do you see it as a potential Florent 2.0?
No, I don’t want to be anyone’s 2.0. It’s a new venture. But, how different can it be from another diner? It’s being modeled after all diners before it.
Will you be open all night?
I hope to be open 24 hours eventually. I want to be open late at some point. But it’s a process.
Indeed. The diner was supposed to have opened in the spring. What happened?
Construction. Permits are fine, it’s just we were running into complications with construction. There are mechanical issues and it takes time.
And when is the opening projected to be?
I think we’re not that far. I think within the next 30 days. We should be. It’s always hard to tell. My opinion is biased. Let’s say a month.
Will there be any synergy with the New Museum, which is located next door?
No, there’s no real connection. I’d like to fit it in somehow, though, to give an artistic feel to the diner. In an artistic way, something. I love the artistic part of the museum and I hope that the people that come to the diner will take part in that energy.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to open a restaurant?
Tell his girlfriend to call my wife. She’ll give you the advice. I live my life and do my thing and am happy with it; it’s more the people around me that take the beatings.