When she was a child spending summers with her family in St.- Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a seaside village in the South of France, Georgette Farkas loved their visits to cozy rotisserie restaurants. Nearly everything was cooked in giant fireplaces. "There was no menu, but you knew that there was always roast chicken, steak on the bone, leg of lamb and potatoes," says Farkas. Big baskets of fresh raw vegetables were brought to start along with various pâtés that they made that day. "It was that simple, but also very comfortable, chic and a little bit luxurious," she recalls.
Just thinking about the rotisserie and delectable dishes satisfied Farkas even before she stepped inside. "You would be seduced with all the senses. In my mind's eye, I could taste, smell and see everything - whether it was a cut of lamb, or a big steak or birds or even vegetables roasting. My mouth was already watering before I came into the restaurant," she explains. "There was the idea of something juicy, but crispy, flavorful and homey. Roasting something over an open flame, is elementary and basic, but soul satisfying. It appeals to a very primal, elementary instinct that's almost caveman-like."
And while Farkas spent most of her career working with the world's finest chefs including Daniel Boulud, when she founded her own restaurant Rôtisserie Georgette in New York City, she turned to her childhood roots. She longed to create the warmth of those beloved comforting rotisseries and merge her adult and childhood worlds. "I loved having spent all my career in these super luxury restaurants. It certainly made its mark on my life. But the idea of doing very simple and traditional cooking with a very high level of quality ingredients was how Rôtisserie Georgette was born," says Farkas. "It's meant to have warmth and comfort, a little bit of style and luxury, but just no pretense and no fussiness." As Daniel Boulud describes Rôtisserie Georgette: "This is Sunday dinner every night of the week."
Set in a 1903 landmark building with 14-foot soaring ceilings, the restaurant with an open kitchen exudes warmth with a dash of chic. Azulejo Portuguese tiles from the 1960s adorn one wall. The intricate moldings and hand sewn parquet de Versailles floors were made by New York craftsmen. There are antique mirrors, tapestries and bronze sconces. Nearly all the decor was discovered at auctions, antique shops, flea markets and salvage yards. "There's enough old stuff in the world," says Farkas.
Rôtisserie Georgette doesn't just celebrate food. Farkas has also turned the restaurant into a classic literary salon. Throughout the year she holds dedicated lunches where guests can meet and dine with their favorite authors in an intimate setting. The next Author! Author! Literary Lunch will be this Saturday, January 14th at 12pm. For a unique treat, bestselling authors Adam Gopnik (a staff writer at The New Yorker for more than three decades) and novelist Meg Wolitzer (The Wife, The Uncoupling, The Interestings) will dish on their most recent works. "We are privileged to have a coterie of renowned authors as regulars here and now a select group of them have agreed to take part in small events where our guests can meet them first hand over a three course lunch," explains Farkas.
Stephanie Abrams and Francisco Blanco share the chef title and mastermind Rôtisserie Georgette's classic dishes. Between them they have worked in some of the world's finest kitchens including DANIEL and Le Cirque.
The chefs make the most of their open flame rotisserie ovens which are heated as high as 850 degrees to roast a myriad of delectables: salmon, branzino, lobster and prawns, seasonal vegetables and a variety of meats including beef, lamb, baby back pork ribs, ducks, squab, guinea hen, grouse, partridge - and, naturally, chicken. "It takes a special kind of chef who has a healthy ego, a lot of confidence and is proud to be doing this really traditional cooking and do it perfectly," says Farkas. "They don't need to prove that they can turn a dish inside out, backwards and forwards, and give it back to you deconstructed in seven ways. That's not what we do here."
All the love that Farkas, Abrams, Blanco and their team puts into Rôtisserie Georgette is well worth the effort. "At the end of the day a restaurant is a place where you take care of people with good homey hearty food," she says. "I love the expression, if you love someone roast them a chicken. What could be more perfect?"
The Author! Author! Literary Lunch at Rôtisserie Georgette includes a presentation, discussion and three course lunch with wine pairings. Tax, gratuity and signed books are additional. For tickets call 212-390-8060 or visit here.