If you’re a New York City barfly, you’ve likely patronized one of Ravi DeRossi’s watering holes. His first project was the Bourgeois Pig, a space that was “originally going to be an antiques store, then an antiques store/coffeeshop, then a coffeeshop/winebar,” he says. When it opened, it commanded two- to three-hour waits. And he followed that up with Death + Company, one of the city’s most prolific bars. He now has sixteen drinking dens, about which he says, “I got lucky. I have zero background in this business — but Death + Company became what it is.”
DeRossi’s background is in art. “I was an artist my whole life,” he says. “I was a painter, and I did really well. And then September 11 came, and I was going through a difficult time — I think everyone in New York was. The economy was collapsing, and people didn’t want to spend $50,000 on a painting.” So he rented the East Village space that was to become the Bourgeois Pig, and began a new career.
A few years ago, he got bored with opening cocktail bars, and so started focusing on restaurants. “We’d always try to do great cocktails and great food at our bars, but nobody wanted to write about our food,” he says. “They just wanted to drink.” He started talking to chefs, and opened seafood-centric places like Desnuda in the East Village and Bergen Hill in Carroll Gardens. “Having an art background, but not having time to paint, it’s my favorite thing to design and conceptualize restaurants,” he says. “I work with chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers to create great experiences.”
And now he’s unleashed Sol (127 1/2 MacDougal Street, 212-598-1809) on Greenwich Village.
DeRossi had the space for Sol before he had a concept — he moved the Bourgeois Pig to MacDougal Street when his East Village rent was tripled, and picked up a downstairs space in the same building in the process. After he reopened the Bourgeois Pig, he spent time sitting downstairs, pondering what it had become. “I spent a lot of time in Spain over the last few years, and I always loved it,” he says. “So I said, let’s do a Spanish seafood restaurant.”
DeRossi’s main inspiration was a coastal Spanish town. “I came across this tiny fishing village in Spain in research,” he says. “Cuisine of the sun originated there. Basically, they worship the sun there; they have a strong connection to the sun. So they only eat vegetables that grow above ground, and they only eat fish that swim at the top of the ocean. That’s where cuisine of the sun came from — and that’s what inspired this place.”
DeRossi tapped Willy Ono to head up the kitchen; the chef did a stint at La Fonda del Sol here in New York City, and he traveled through Europe, cooking in Copenhagen and Spain. His menu isn’t slavish about adhering to the strict rules of the cuisine of the sun; he’s incorporated root vegetables and crustaceans, too. And while DeRossi wanted to include the cured and pickled fishes you see all over the Iberian Peninsula, he wasn’t interested in re-creating that exactly — many of those ingredients come from cans. But he was interested in pickling and curing in house, which Ono is doing.
The menu is built on small plates, and includes highlights like anchovies on toast, fried sunchokes with lemon aioli, patatas bravas, live scallop ceviche with finger lime and serrano chile, pickled mackerel, and seared octopus with chickpea stew.
David Yixuan Dong, who has crafted the wine lists at many of DeRossi’s concepts, is the in-house sommelier here — “He’s very passionate about it,” DeRossi says. Yixuan Dong has put together a wine list that focuses on coastal Spain, where wines boast a minerality that’s more earthy and ocean-flavored. There’s a concise sherry section, as well as a short list of sakes, which DeRossi says match well with the seafood and flavors. There is no cocktail list here, and everything on the wine list is offered by the glass.
DeRossi applied his usual artistry to the sixteen-seat space. For the floor, he had a mosaic of the sun made in Spain. “It’s all Spanish marble,” he says. “The thing weighs like two tons.” That’s complemented by a copper open kitchen, grassroot wallpaper, mother-of-pearl sconces, and a pink and black Spanish-marble bartop. You can post up at the bar, or you can take a seat in front of the open kitchen.
Sol made its debut on March 17, and is open from 5 p.m. to midnight daily. It does not accept reservations.