After a five-year run with a move in the middle, restaurateur Gabriel Stulman’s Italian cafe Perla will close on July 23. In a letter sent to the restaurant’s email subscribers, Stulman pointed to increased competition and lack of business as reasons for the shutter.
But ever the businessman, Stulman — who also owns Bar Sardine, Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey’s Grocery, and Fedora — pairs the news with an announcement that he’s opening anew restaurant in the space. Fairfax will be “a laidback spot that works throughout the day and becomes a wine bar with great food at night,” he says, with food inspired by London, Paris, and Copenhagen. Perla’s team — chef Jack Harris, pastry chef Lindsey Prokscha, wine director Nick Grenier, and general manager James Lauer — will all stay on to open Fairfax.
Several times in the letter — in full below — Stulman mentions his wanting to keep prices reasonable: that he could not played into Perla’s failure. “Between the increases in cost of goods, rent, labor and insurance to name a few, there is little leeway remaining in how to manage a successful restaurant. One change that we are not comfortable with at Perla is to continue to raise our menu prices. Dining in New York is already expensive enough,” he writes.
Perla opened on Minetta Lane in March 2012 to long waits and good reviews, with two stars from both the Times’ Pete Wells and New YorkJeans Mojito Mango Jersey Dress Tommy Easy zwFqwA magazine’s Adam Platt. One year later it was added to the Eater 38, where it stayed for at least a year. And then Stulman moved the restaurant in January 2016 to bring it closer to his other restaurants, and it lost momentum. The new location never took off the way the original did, with Eater critic Robert Sietsema calling it “not quite as mobbed as when it was a few blocks southeast.”
Now, Perla will close after service on Sunday, July 23. Fairfax will debut one week later. Stay tuned for more.
Dear Friends and Family of Perla,
We have some news to share. As a team, we’ve made the decision to close Perla cafe on Sunday, July 23rdafter dinner service and to open a new restaurant called Fairfax in the same space. It’s not a decision we take lightly, but we’re ready to realize a new vision for the space that we’re really excited to share with you.
In 2012 when we opened Perla on Minetta Lane, we created an original Italian restaurant that was unlike others in the city at the time. We are grateful for how strongly it was embraced by our guests and the recognition it received in the media. Before Perla, there were not so many restaurants playing hip hop music and serving innovative Italian cuisine in a relaxed environment with enthusiastic service. But today there are many more options where you can find all of those elements, so we evolved. We started by moving the restaurant in a more casual direction, shortly after, we relocated a few blocks closer to our other restaurants Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey’s Grocery, Fedora and bar Sardine.
While there was wind in our sails when we made the initial move to 234 W 4th St., we are not as busy today as we once were. While many of our neighbors and friends love Perla dearly just the way that it is, the reality is, Perla no longer stands out for many in the way that it once did, particularly with the increased number of Italian restaurants nearby. We are not alone in wrestling with the same set of challenges that restaurateurs across the city are struggling with. Between the increases in cost of goods, rent, labor and insurance to name a few, there is little leeway remaining in how to manage a successful restaurant. One change that we are not comfortable with at Perla is to continue to raise our menu prices. Dining in New York is already expensive enough, and it is our desire to keep this corner easily accessible in style and price point for our guests near and far.
We love the charm of the space and we love this neighborhood, and the silver lining in this transition is that we will continue to work with our amazing team in this amazing place. With Chef Jack Harris, Pastry Chef Lindsey Prokscha, Wine Director Nick Grenier and General Manager James Lauer all on board, we’ve made the decision to move forward together not as Perla, but as Fairfax.
If you’ve been following as we evolve as a company, you know we’re not afraid to rethink and reinvent as we go along, something we did with Chez Sardine when it became Bar Sardine a few years back. Change is scary, but we are choosing to embrace the change and the adversity that comes along with it. With the great location and the great team we already have two of the three most important elements in making a great restaurant. We believe that our vision for this new concept is the third element.
So get ready for Fairfax, a café and wine bar, opening at 234 W 4th St about a week after we’ve closed Perla and made design and layout changes. Inspired by places I’ve visited in cities like London, Paris, and Copenhagen, it will be a laidback spot that works throughout the day and becomes a wine bar with great food at night. Throughout my travels I have been drawn to these places that are more casual than restaurants and more sophisticated than bars. They share a theme of inspired food, reasonable prices and service that is as professional and sincere as what I encounter in fine dining restaurants, but with a more relaxed vibe.
Please come and visit and toast with us in the next few weeks. We want to thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your support of Perla over these past five years - in all its forms. It has been a privilege to work with so many talented individuals and to get to be a part of the lives of so many regulars. We are so proud of what we have achieved and we look forward to continuing our relationship with all of you as we continue to grow together. Restaurants are a crazy business (and only getting crazier), but being a part of your lives is why we do what we do.