Nick Livanos is the proprietor of Livanos Restaurant Group that owns and operates Oceana, Molyvos, City Limits and Moderne Barn.
Nick attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, the beginning of a path that has led to Livanos’ latest undertaking. Ousia is a high end Greek restaurant that will be part of the new VIA 57th West building on 57th street in Manhattan being built by the Durst Organization. With the restaurant under construction we spoke with Nick about the challenges of a big family business, the unique task of succeeding in New York City and much more.
Nick, what are the biggest challenges of opening a restaurant in New York City?
This is my 5th or 6th restaurant I have started from scratch construction wise and my 11th or 12th opening overall. The design process is more difficult than ever before because of all the building and safety codes. We have to be up to code in every way possible.
Additionally the building is still under construction so there are the contractor’s guidelines that we abide by. We are using Trinity Construction from Boston, MA for the fourth time which makes it easy. We used them for Oceana and asked them to finish in eighteen weeks and they were right on time. They are on schedule for Ousia to be ready in mid to late October.
What inspired you to open Ousia?
A few things. Molyvos is now nineteen years old and for some time we have wanted to open a second Greek restaurant but be a bit broader in definition. We wanted it to be mainly Greek but with other Mediterranean influences.
Also the opportunity to be in this new building is exciting for us. We love that we can be pioneers in a brand new neighborhood. There is not much here, lots of new construction. There will be 14,000 apartments and all those people will need somewhere to eat. It is also the first time in New York City that we won’t be in Midtown which we are looking forward to.
How is the menu going to be designed? Will it be influenced by some of the more popular eating tends like gluten-free, vegan & healthy dieting?
We do a lot of that at Molyvos now but our next step is to be more vegetable-centric. Our menu will have a lot of different takes on vegetables and the gluten free selections kind of go hand in hand with vegetarian dishes.
We also want to have one menu all day and night instead of changing things over from lunch to dinner. We want some of the casual aspects of a lunch menu available for dinner. We are going to have a very young clientele who quite often aren’t looking for a full traditional meal.
Will you be sourcing ingredients locally or seasonally?
We have been doing that forever at our restaurants. We love farms from Eastern Long Island. My father lives out on the North Fork and has great relationships with all of the local farmers and farm stands. We have trucks that goes out all the time until the end of October that brings back as much local produce as possible. It is a central focus of all our restaurants.
Your restaurant group and business in general is very family focused. Will this carry over to Ousia?
Absolutely. My oldest kids Johnny and Enrico are in the business and they will be part of the management team. They are already loving the neighborhood, digging in and meeting people. They are both hospitality majors and both went to the CIA. It is amazing because with them there will be three generations working together. My dad is still very active in the restaurant group.
What are you most looking forward to about this restaurant?
The bar is the biggest one we will ever have done. It will seat almost forty and be a focal point of the restaurant which is exciting. It makes for a very social atmosphere and a way for people to meet each other.
What makes for a successful operation in your kitchens and how do you carry that over to Ousia?
Part of the team is coming from Molyvos, our other Greek restaurant. They love what they do and take great care. They have an immense passion for food and are very excited to take on a new challenge. That is key, to have people who are hungry to meet challenges.