December 11, 2014
The insuppressible Amy Sacco continues her reign as doyenne of jet-set nightlife and figurehead of posh Manhattan playground No. 8. Take a trip to her VIP world, and learn her picks for New York City nightlife.
Few people make it big as New York nightlife entrepreneurs, and fewer still remain relevant for long. (The city’s seesawing tastes see to that.) To stay on top, you have to have a distinct identity, yet accommodate the flavours of the day; be generous of spirit and uncompromisingly exclusive. One ingredient that often gets overlooked but means more than anything: interest in every person who walks through the door. This affection is elemental to Amy Sacco’s magic.
For the better part of two decades, the impeccably dressed and statuesque Sacco has served as Manhattan’s must-know hostess. She first made waves in ’98 with haute eatery Lot 61, and had a cool Chelsea restaurant named Bette, too, named after her mom. She hit it huge with Bungalow 8, an elbow-rubbing Mecca made famous by gossip columns and hip-hop lyrics. (It closed in 2009 after a landlord dispute.) Since 2012, she has presided over bi-level boÃ®te No. 8, where celebs, royals, and cultural instigators of every stripe make merry. Boldfacers from Clooney to Pharrell to Scarlett Johansson have cozied in No. 8’s confines. “I love to be the pied piper of the party and invite my fun friends to play with me,” Sacco smiles. “We get a trans-generational, multicolour tapestry of New York life””both the saints and the sinners. I like both.”
Both like her, too. The air turns electric when Sacco enters the room. She knows precisely who should be introduced to whom, and she’s on texting terms with everyone. Best of all, she’s a blast. “My clients want to have a great time and be acknowledged,” she says in her sumptuous rasp. “And I do mean everyone, not just the supermodels, movie stars, and the super rich. I try to treat everyone the same.” Those who make it past the ropes step into a modern-day Busby Berkeley film. The downstairs Ballroom, with its banquette seating and U-shaped bar, is Dickens-meets-disco. (Note: It’s best to make reservations, and remember that such glamour isn’t cheap.) Upstairs is the Rec Room, a 70s-style, vinyl-bedecked space where the coolest kids carry on to funk, soul, and lots of rock and roll. The space has been the site of countless charity events, including fundraisers for organizations close to her heart (Art Production Fund, the Green Beret Foundation, Wounded Warriors, children’s cancer initiatives, and more).
Sacco, with impresario John Meadow and Bobbi Rossi of LDV Hospitality Group, the management company behind No. 8 (and hot spots in LA, Vegas, and Atlantic City), have opened a Rec Room at the Gale hotel in Miami; they’ve also created “pop-up” versions of Bungalow 8 in Venice, Cannes, Monaco, and Toronto, with Chris Sheffield of SL Design setting the scenes. Though she makes it look easy, she has developed a clear vision for “musts” of a well-run nightspot. “The experience should be positive, from start to finish,” she says. “The lighting and sound. The experience at the door. Getting through the ropes. How long it takes to get a drink. A venue can ruin someone’s evening at any of those points, so we pay close attention.”
Though she expertly tends to the needs of well-heeled crowds, Sacco remains warm and authentic throughout. In an industry where most harried entrepreneurs can’t maintain eye contact, that’s gold.
Here, Sacco offers us suggestions on where to sample the best New York City nightlife. “The company you keep is crucial,” she reminds us. “No matter where you go, if you’re there with your real friends, you’re well on your way to a great night. Want an even better night? Leave your phone alone, unless you’re taking a group picture.”
Barchetta: “This lives where my old restaurant, Bette, used to be. They have done an incredible job with its menu and operations. I am there several times a week.”
American Cut Steakhouse: “Truth be told, I prefer an amazing restaurant over a trendy restaurant, and I love privacy. The food here is just wonderfully done, the space is very chic, and it’s some of the best service in town.”
Indochine: “This is still perhaps my favourite restaurant in the city. It’s been around for 30 years and is still as chic as it was at its start.”
Lafayette: “A really well done new brasserie that’s both delicious and consistent.”
Scarpetta: “Arguably some of the best Italian dishes in the city, and so comfortable it’s easy to kick back and enjoy time with friends.”
Minetta Tavern: “One of my all-time top choices for a perfect lunch.”
Cipriani: “I’m not always in the mood for a “˜scene-y’ brunch, but when I’m feeling social, this is the place to be.”
Gemma: “This is the restaurant within the Bowery Hotel, and it has been strong since the day it opened.”
The Maritime Hotel Lobby: “I use this as my office a lot of the time. When the weather’s good this patio environment is one of the nicest places downtown to grab a meal. And even when it’s cold, it has heaters so you can enjoy the outside.”
No. 8 “I’d be remiss to not mention my own spot. I’m really proud of the food we’ve been doing”¦ And I have to admit, it’s one of the greatest grilled cheeses on earth.”
Rochelle’s: “The tagline here is, “˜Bad decisions, served nightly.’ How can you argue with that?”
El Toro Blanco: “One of the best Mexican nights in the city.”
Header Image: Amy Sacco, hostess with the most-est, holding court at No. 8 © LDV Hospitality
With six daily flights to New York from London Heathrow, it couldn’t be easier to book with Virgin Atlantic.
Where do you go for great New York City Nightlife? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Andrew Stone