|Chef Scott Conant and co-owner Chris Cannon. The Vespa
(permanently parked at the entrance) was meant to
lend some hip cred to the enterprise.
❋ The team behind L'Impero includes Scott Conant, a young chef who's part of a new wave of celebrity cooks shaking up the food scene in the early aughts.
❋ Conant serves an Italian-American fusion menu, whose signature dish is capretto, slow-roasted baby goat, paired with a sophisticated wine list curated by co-owner Chris Cannon.
❋ The interior (above), a slick melding of giant mirrors, soft lighting, white tablecloths and brown-and-slate-blue upholstery, is designed by Vicente Wolf, who wants it to be "a place where a woman would get dressed up to come." A shimmering white ceiling ‒ the result of six coats of car enamel ‒ is a standout feature.
❋ The review makes the place a bona fide foodie destination. Soon, Conant and Cannon expand their empire with Bar Tonno, a downtown Italian raw-fish restaurant, and Alto, a Midtown Northern Italian. Then the partners have a falling out, and Conant leaves L'Impero in May, 2007, replaced by up-and-coming chef Michael White.
❋ It is decided that the five-year-old restaurant needs a makeover, and so L'Impero closes on June 29, 2008. It is reworked into Convivio, a more casual spot, and subject of a future post.