A Chic Dinner in NYC

The New York Times' Mark Rozzo recently wrote about a charming dinner party hosted by Apartmento Magazine.  The dinner was inspired by the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City.  The Italian meal was served on clean lined tableware from iittala mixed with rustic elements.  We love the vibe of this party and the conviviality of  a group of people squeezed elbow to elbow around a table.  Simple good food and wine coupled with some lively guests is recipe for a successful evening.

iittala tableware

Marco Velardi, Omar Sosa and Nacho Alegre, the trio of twenty-somethings behind the Milan- and Barcelona-based indie design magazine Apartamento have a flair for celebrating the reality of everyday life. And for just plain celebrating. The magazine is an invitingly DIY affair, and so was Tasca, Apartamento’s three-night pop-up food event at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, which, true to form, seemed to take its cue from an inescapable reality of all design fairs: that while it’s stimulating to take in the latest Kartell creation or to shake hands with a Bouroullec, the most pressing issue on everyone’s overloaded mind — particularly after a forced march through an arena-sized exhibition hall — isn’t rapid prototyping or just how post postmodernism is. It’s dinner: Where it’s going to happen, when and with whom.

“Sure, it’s important to entertain in a context like ICFF, which is obviously relevant to our magazine,” Velardi, the magazine’s editor in chief, said the other night as he kept vigil over a steaming pot of asparagus risotto. “But, really, the fair is just an excuse.” Perhaps what was more relevant than the occasion of ICFF for Apartamento — which has just unveiled its fifth issue — was the homey atmosphere of Tasca’s venue, the East Seventh Street headquarters of Seems and Ed. Varie, the publisher Nick Neubeck’s upstart art-book imprints. Neubeck — a recent San Francisco transplant — worked as Velardi’s sous chef in a makeshift kitchen cobbled together with equal parts sweat and ingenuity: A couple of hot plates from K-Mart did the trick, along with a stainless-steel work table and tableware from Iittala, who helped sponsor the event, all set up in a storage area that normally holds Neubeck’s inventory. As for the front of the house, a cozy gathering of about 20 was coming together around a long farm table (banged together out of scrap wood for the occasion), with such guests as the Elle style director Kate Lanphear, the Ace Hotel senior producer Jou-Yie Chou, Culture & Commerce’s Sarah Natkins, the Open City contributing editor and skateboarding memoirist Jocko Weyland (a frequent Apartamento byline), and the designer Jonathan Olivares, who spoke eloquently on the connections between design and food.

iittala tableware 2

At Tasca, design and food, ICFF event and off-hours wind-down, were virtually one and the same. Velardi orchestrated a menu that began with pa amb tomàquet, the traditional Catalan tomato-anointed toast (whipped up by Sosa, who had flown in from Barcelona just in time to do the honors) and moved through pears with Brie, a salad of silky ribboned zucchini (recipe below), and Velardi’s knockout risotto, all fuelled by the guests’ assorted BYOB selections.

“We’re all about the concept of home,” Velardi said, “and with this event, we’re really bringing people home.” For the rarefied design world, the sentiment was as disarmingly sweet and honest as the candleholders made out of fresh apples or the creamy peach-chocolate dessert that, at about one in the morning, had the entire room swooning.  Velardi seemed pleased with the way the event was nudging people, pleasure, and domestic life closer together. “Who knows?  Maybe somebody’s going to fall in love here tonight.”

zuccini and basil salad apartmento

Zucchini With Basil Salad

6 small zucchini

7 basil sprigs

Juice of 1 lemon

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin ribbons (you can use a vegetable peeler or a mandoline). Finely chop the leaves from the basil sprigs. Combine in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil in a separate bowl and season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour the dressing over the zucchini and basil and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Allow to rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Serves 4. Recipe from Marco Velardi.