Photography by Eric Isaac; Shot inside New Work Project

Nicky Balestrieri & Luigi Tadini

Co-Founders, The Gathery

| Williamsburg

Ever wonder what it would look like if an Erdem dress morphed into a real-life garden? How about if the hot button mantra, “Girl Power,” needed to suddenly transform into a conference hall? Well, Nicky Balestrieri and Luigi Tadini have— and kids, that’s precisely the kind of thinking that led to their reputation as visionaries amongst industry powerhouses like Erdem, the CFDA, W Hotels and Rémy Cointreau. The guys, of course, are the co-founders of The Gathery, a radical, think-outside-the-box creative consultancy whose work spans brand marketing, creative direction, product development, event production and experiential design to name a few (the latter of which accounts for our initial intro scenarios— FYI, their Girlboss conference was nothing short of a Madonna-music-video-meets-grown-up-girls-rule-boys-drool-clubhouse). Balestrieri and Tadini first met while working at the perennially wacky, albeit barrier-breaking Paper Magazine, a shared history they say accounts for their current editorial approach to innovative content (though we have a hunch their penchant for turning our wildest fantasies into realities is a talent all their own). When they’re not working side-by-side at their Williamsburg office— a shared workspace by New Work Project— Balestrieri and Tadini value a cornichon-stuffed olive, appreciate the great art galleries of upstate and will never stop collecting a world’s worth of tchotchkes. Here, they sit down with CITIPHILE to reveal their little black books on NYC.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDBY: NB: Café Colette (MAP ITBOOK ITx) is ageless— it’s quite simply the perfect corner bistro full of neighborhood locals with a perfectly executed short menu of favorites. I have never stopped ordering the octopus with a side of broccoli rabe.
LT: This is a difficult choice considering Brooklyn is home to numerous delectable haunts. I’m a big believer in finding your dish at a restaurant and sticking to it so at each of the spots I often visit, I have my go-to entrée. Looking for a moody candlelight Italian dinner? Try D.O.C. Wine Bar‘s (MAP ITx) and order the comforting Malloredus pasta for a taste of Sardinia. In the mood for a family-style mezze banquet? How about brunch at Glasserie (MAP ITBOOK ITx) where the flatbread is impossibly addictive? Feeling jazz-y? Pop by the new Cecconi’s in Dumbo for the beef tartare and mind-blowing views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

COFFEE OR TEA: NB: Coffee from Toby’s Estate (MAP ITx) because its absolutely delicious and the environment mirrors the kind of coffee shop I dreamt about when I moved to Brooklyn seven years ago.
LT: Coffee all the way. I’m a coffee snob having grown up in Brazil. We take our ‘cafezinho’ quite seriously down south. Blue Bottle (MAP ITx) and Toby’s Estate are a mandatory part of my morning routine. The day hasn’t really started until I get a skim latte or a cappuccino on my way to work. Both [places] offer rich roasts with chocolate and nutty notes.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANT: NB: This is an impossible question because Im a gemini and I have several moods to suit… My favorite meal is certainly the lamb tagine charmoula at Café Mogador (MAP ITx).
LT: I like a classic. Balthazar (MAP ITBOOK ITx) still holds true after all these years. I’ve spent many nights with family and friends over bottles of wine and steak béarnaise. The vibe is just contagiously romantic; it reminds you of lazy evenings in the Left Bank— especially when the table is covered with fries by meals end.

COCKTAIL DE LA NUIT: NB: A dirty Ketel One martini. SoHo House (MAP ITx) makes a perfect vodka martini— in part due to the cornichon-stuffed green olives they use and in part to the right thin, crystal glassware they serve it in. Back in the burg, Maison Premiere (MAP ITx) is a consistent winner, but it’s extremely popular; a tip to avoid the crowds is to visit their sister restaurant, Sauvage (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x)– which has equally great cocktails and food– instead.
LT: An Old Fashioned is my go-to cocktail; that’s something I inherited from my Italian grandfather. For the best Old Fashioned in Williamsburg, it’s a toss-up between Hotel Delmano (MAP ITx) and Maison Premiere. If you like live music paired with your drink, then head to Saint Mazie on Grand (MAP IT, x).

AFTER-WORK HAPPY HOUR: NB: My after-work, guilty pleasure joint is Shelter on N. 7th Street (MAP IT, x)— it’s ludicrously decorated and looks like a Western ski chalet (antler chandeliers and all), but indulging in stone-oven empanadas next to a fireplace is just really fantastic, especially in the winter.
LT: Hotel Delmano is always a good after-work stop in the neighborhood. The drinks are inventive and tended to with care. Good charcuterie and cheese plates are also on the menu and no one can really resist soppressata at 6 pm. If I’m in the city, I like to pop-by Ludlow House (MAP ITx). They have a quiet room in the back of the ground floor with welcoming, low velvet sofas and an eternally lit fireplace— perfect for a cozy winter’s night.

WHERE TO BRING OUT-OF-TOWNERS: NB: I always like to try something new with out-of-towners— thats the best thing about New York; were always getting new things to try. Currently, AbcV (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x), De Maria (MAP ITBOOK ITx), Flora (MAP IT, x), Ferris (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) and Metta (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) are on the top of my list… The Finch is perfect for a Brooklyn date night too.
LT: Lincoln Center (MAP ITx). I’m a big opera fan and there is little else I like to do more than an evening uptown with Puccini or Verdi followed by dinner at Café Luxembourg (MAP ITBOOK ITx). The brutalist architecture and the fact that the building complex is home to some of our most important and historic art institutions is inspiring. Throw in the anchoring fountain and you don’t need much else… I’m a romantic, what can I say? That being said, an evening at Café Carlyle (MAP ITBOOK ITx) is a close second.

MUSIC PICK: NB: I like to listen to jazz and standards; give me Nina Simone and Chet Baker any day.  I love the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center. I have an old cabaret friend from my nightlife days who does something each year— this year, its Justin Vivian Bond singing The Carpenters which will, of course, be divine! Once again, the gemini has his other side to tend to too so I also love all things classic and obscure disco (which I consider to be the official music of New York)… anything that The Carry Nation (x)  or Horse Meat Disco (x) puts on is where you can find me dancing.
LT: I listen to a little bit of everything, but when I’m working, I typically stick to something calming like jazz or bossa nova. Chet Baker is my favorite jazz musician and I definitely have a fair share of show tunes on my personal Spotify. Best playlist in the city? I would have to say mine considering it is totally tailored to my schizophrenic musical taste. For live music, a double feature on Grand Street: start the night at Saint Mazie for jazz before ending at Skinny Dennis (MAP IT, x), a down-home, honky-tonk dive bar with a great rotating selection of bands.

BEST BRUNCH: NB: The garden of Aurora (MAP ITx) in spring and summer is a magical place where we have spent countless brunches with my family and friends— a burrata board, followed by an Italian interpretation of a brunch classic and a bottle of Falanghina is the perfect way to prime yourself for some ill-advised clothing purchases later in the day (read: asymmetrical denim smocks from Swords and Smith).
LT: In Williamsburg, my favorite brunch spots are Sunday in Brooklyn (MAP IT, x) and AuroraSunday in Brooklyn is around the corner from my house and offers the standard “brunch hits.” The environment is quite charming and it makes you feel like you are somewhere upstate. In the summer, the street corner is littered with café tables and the second floor has a terrace for additional outside seating. Aurora is another staple on my list of restaurants. The brunch menu puts a Tuscan twist on classics— for example, their parma eggs Benedict is complete with homemade ricotta, perfectly cured prosciutto and black truffle vinaigrette. Their sizable greenhouse in the back allows you to eat outdoors even in colder months.

BEST PEOPLE WATCHING: NB: All of New York— thats what makes the city so incredible.  No matter where you park yourself, youll get a show of some sorts: whether you’re at the classics like Balthazar or The Odeon (MAP ITBOOK ITx), watching the kids at Brooklyn Barge (MAP IT, x) or Roberta’s (MAP ITx), witnessing the honorable protesters outside Trumps hideous buildings on any given day… its like free theater.
LT: The subway— hands-down. New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world and our subway system is the artery of it all. The underground is where everyone mixes; and frankly, it’s a great place to people watch… it [showcases the] wildly diverse and equally insane genetic make-up of our town.

HEALTHY STAPLE: NB: I have a Mother Earth green juice from Juice Press (MAP ITx) every day.

GUILTY PLEASURE: NB: Cheese— all the cheese with pasta underneath it. Lilia (MAP ITBOOK ITx) would be my top choice for this.
LT: A four-hour, boozy Sunday brunch at Andrew Tarlow’s Diner (MAP ITx). The menu changes daily, but you can count on the duck fat potatoes and other filling, delectable bites. The vibe is always relaxed and fun.

REGULAR AT: NB: Theres a circuit of stores in Williamsburg that I always shop. Im a big believer in local businesses and most of the marketing we do in our practice is in connecting big brands to serve smaller ones. I practice what I preach by frequenting Concrete + Water (MAP ITx), Bird (MAP ITx), Swords and Smith (MAP IT, x), Kinfolk (MAP IT, x) and Pilgrim (MAP ITx).

DATE NIGHT STANDBY: NB: Vinegar Hill House (MAP ITBOOK ITx). It feels like you’re a world away from the city, but you’re basically in the Navy Yard with great lighting and fantastic seasonal food (the two things I judge all restaurants on in that order). Plus, you can always tell if the date is going to work out if he eats the cornbread… its totally not healthy, but it’s also the best thing on the menu so its a litmus test for those who are willing to live a little.

DELIVERY GO-TO: NB: I am like Miranda on Sex and the City with her Chinese order: its embarrassing and Im grateful Seamless saves me from having to listen to a restaurant worker laugh at me, but I order the same thing from Chai Thai (MAP IT, ORDER ITx) every time I come home from a work trip, Tom Yum soup, crispy duck salad and green curry with chicken. It’s perfect NYC delivery food.
LT: Sunday nights require a pizza (or two) from Fornino (MAP IT, ORDER IT, x). The order is generally the same, as is the company and routine: my boyfriend, my dog and a good movie or the latest binge-worthy series.

GO-TO GETAWAY: NB: We rent a charming barn in Tivoli, New York that we use to relax and escape the city year-round. It sleeps 12 people and the bedrooms are separated by hung quilts so it feels like we are all at slumber camp together. Nearby, there is a fabulous restaurant at the Hotel Tivoli (MAP IT, x) and great coffee at a place called Murrays which is housed in a former church (MAP IT, x). Bard College is also close and I always look forward to the Spiegel tent shows in the summer which have all my old nightlife pals performing in this 19th Century party tent. Its so odd, and yet, so fabulous to see those folks in such a rural place.
LT: Every year, I explore somewhere I haven’t been before; however, I do have a few go-to cities that I return to annually. During the summer, I try to spend at least two weeks in Provincetown with my business partner. It truly is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and a reinvigorating tradition we have held for nearly a decade. Paris is the second spot I have to go to at least once a year (typically that means spending New Years or Christmas there). Of course, Sao Paulo is somewhere I travel for bi-annual family visits, too. 

TO SEE AND BE SEEN: LT: A good, ol’fashioned Fashion Week party or uptown benefit. Alison Sarofim’s Halloween party is one of my favorite events of the year to see old friends (that is, if you’re able to recognize them in their elaborate costumes). Who doesn’t like a costume party?

TO RELAX AND UNWIND: NB: The Brooklyn Museum (MAP IT, x) followed by a walk in The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (MAP ITx)— art plus nature is my healing.
LT: Skip the city and head upstate to Hudson, New York. I especially love [to go there for] a long weekend in the fall and winter. There are lots of great little local shops and a wide selection of delicious restaurants to choose from. Add art to your itinerary by visiting contemporary galleries nearby; I recommend the Jack Shainman Gallery, which is in a former school in Kinderhook (MAP IT, x), Magazzino Italian Art Center in Cold Spring (MAP IT, x) and, of course, Dia Beacon (MAP ITx).

CLOSET CHECK: NB: I’d describe my personal style as, “desert lesbian aspirant.”  I wear creams, beiges, greys and whites— anything along a neutral palette with a signature white sneaker.  For this reason, my basics come from Steven Alan (MAP ITx) and special treats come from RTH in Los Angeles (MAP ITx) on my near-monthly trips there. They once did a pop-up at Space 98 in the burg and I bought everything down to the leather-trimmed, wool poncho. Im also obsessed with Atelier Mira (MAP IT, x) for eyewear which is where you need to go if you want sunglasses that are totally unlike anything else on the planet; their edit is exquisite and it’s a must-see store in my neighborhood.
LT: I’m a pretty classic dresser who sometimes likes to try something unexpected and new. I’m a big believer in the power and convenience of the day-to-day uniform. Nothing looks smarter on a man than a perfectly tailored suit. My current and long-standing brand obsessions include Acne, Ami, Lanvin and A.P.C. for basics.

BEST HOME DÉCOR: NB: Similar to my dressing, my home is colorless, bright, welcoming and globally-curated with all the things I grab on my travels. My job is so colorful that I prefer a neutral palette for my home and dress. TRNK (MAP ITx) is a go-to source of incredible items and the NY-based gents who run the website are so dedicated to their mission, it’s impressive to shop their collection. Also, Home of the Brave in Greenpoint (MAP IT, x) and Chango and Co. in Williamsburg (MAP IT, x) are basically perfect stores for my style of timeless, easy and elegant decorating.
LT: My home is filled with objects I’ve collected from my travels— from small tchotchkes to large-scale paintings and photographs. I believe a home should be a reflection of a life lived and nothing gives me more pleasure than finding things on the road and bringing them back to Brooklyn. 

BEST HOST/HOSTESS GIFTS: NB: It’s a hard thing to buy for someone’s home— especially in NYC where we all have zero room for anything— so I usually go for humor. Pansy Ass Ceramics or Group Partner ceramics are totally inappropriate, but fabulous things to give. If you take one of Isaac Nichols’ signature “girl” or “boy” pots and plant it with a succulent, it’s pretty hard not to take home the first prize in gift-giving…

GROOMING BLACK BOOK: NB: Ami (x) at Commune at Krasi (MAP ITx) does my hair and Felicia (x) at Massage Williamsburg (MAP IT, x) fixes my IT bands. Credit is due where it’s deserved.
LT: My facial specialist at Cowshed Spa at SoHo House (MAP IT, x) is a godsend. She comes from Eastern Europe and every time I visit, she reminds me she owned a pet goat growing up named Luigi. She could be 16 years old or 80, but her skin is extraordinary. I can only hope that whatever she is applying to my face is what keeps her young… goat cream? Also, my dermatologist, Debra Jaliman, is a magician (MAP IT, x).

FIT PICK: NB: Progressive Pilates (MAP IT, x) has been a big part of my life in Brooklyn and I love this light-filled small studio. My instructor, Heather, is like family— I designed her wedding for her!
LT: I have a trainer who I visit twice-a-week at our local Equinox (MAP ITx). We have a love/hate relationship. The first time I worked out with him, I legitimately thought I was going to pass out or projectile vomit. It’s been over two years now and I’m happy to report those symptoms have subsided.

ULTIMATE NY MOMENT: NB: There are too many of these stories to tell.  When you have worked in nightlife for eight years and PAPER Mag for another six, you basically could write a book on ridiculous. This one is up there: when I was 23, I built a live-in artist studio in our club crowbar where the artist Peter Tunney lived. During the opening weekend, I spent a night there with him, some of the club employees and Grace Jones where he used our half-naked bodies to make paint impressions on every surface of the room. We were done about the time I had to show up at work at 10 am, which, was conveniently located two flights up…
LT: A New York moment is something fleeting, but happens to you when you least expect it. That’s the magic of New York. It typically hits you when you’ve had a bad week and need a reminder why you’ve chosen to live in this beautifully chaotic and dementedly poetic jungle. The stories are countless and certainly one of the main reasons I call this city home. CP

Nicky & Luigi’s New York

From L to R: First Row: Café Colette; Eyewear from Atelier Mira; SoHo House; Jack Shainman Gallery: The School. Second Row: Accessories from Kinfolk; Magazzino Italian Art Center; Menswear at Swords-Smith; Inside Sauvage.

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