Above the mirrors affixed to a booth-lined wall at newly minted Schapiro’s, a restaurant that opened this weekend at 120 Rivington, are dozens of old printing press shelves, some of their many small cubbies filled with the antiquated block letters that once formed the basis for how we disseminated information. The detail pays homage to James Rivington, a colonial-era printer and bookseller who is the namesake of Rivington Street, and this is one of many nods to the history of this restaurant’s immediate surroundings. Other examples: Cocktail names like Lush Life and Bargain District evoke a book set in the area and a Lower East Side nickname respectively, and the restaurant is named for a famed kosher wine merchant that once graced this block.
It’s been months since Antibes Bistro owners David Shemesh and Eyal Tov picked up the former home of Festival Mexicano and announced plans to open an American restaurant with a Jewish tilt; the pair originally targeted last fall for launch. But a gut renovation that gave the place new skylights and a decor scheme reminiscent of an antique shop packed with very old curiosities delayed the debut until this weekend. And now that Schapiro’s has quietly opened its doors, it will be serving a limited dinner menu paired to a cocktail-centric drinks list — curated by Death + Co. tenders — until July.
The food list digs into the neighborhood’s Jewish roots with items like gefilte fish, Streit’s matzo ball soup (so named, by the way, for a matzo vendor that’s worked this area since the beginning of the 20th century) and a pate served with schmaltz. But it also pulls in other historical factoids — the grilled Romanian steak is a subtle recognition of the first Romanian-American congregation that took up residence just two blocks west; the weiner schnitzel is a play at the German evangelical center that once stood in that same spot. You’ll find, too, American and new American classics like a burger, bone marrow and a side of macaroni and cheese.
A first look and taste of what you can expect:
Two firm, fat porcini-encrusted scallops anchor this appetizer, which showcases them supported by frisee, red quinoa and a tart vinaigrette.
Air-chilled chicken was our bartender’s highest recommendation among the entrees (the gefilte fish was his second choice). The breast meat comes atop a bed of celery root and nubs of dark meat with a liberal pool of savory pan juices.
This side looks like Easy Mac, but it tastes like it’s made with a sharp, aged cheddar. Elbow macaroni comes doused in a sauce made of four cheeses and topped with crispy bread crumbs.
The Appellation Cooler blends white wine, sparkling wine, Cocchi Americano, basil-infused Dolin Blanc and apricot liqueur; it’s garnished with green grapes and cucumber slices.
Rose forms the basis of the Rivington Punch, which derives its hue from Aperol and its sweetness from Combier Framboise — a raspberry liqueur — and St. Germain.
It’s undoubtedly been Pimm’s Cup weather; the Schapiro’s version forgoes copious amounts of chunky muddled fruits for strawberries shaken with Pimm’s, Campari, lemon juice and ginger syrup strained over ice and topped with Perrier.
The Lush Life mixes tequila and strawberry-tarragon shrub with lime juice and agave.