INSIEME, NEW YORK, NY - The name ‘Insieme’ means ‘together’ in Italian, adroitly hinting at the owners’ culinary idea - to unite traditional Italian dishes, listed in one column of the menu, with contemporary interpretations, listed in another. For example, one side offers classics like fritto misto, lasagne bolognese and Tuscan pork roast. The opposite side proposes inventions like plum soup, lamb carpaccio and saltimbocca of wild bass. The two-sided conceit is not an academic attempt to intellectualize the food, but rather a means to create a precise and uncluttered platform from which to explore the rich possibilities of the both past and present simultaneously and with humor. The wine list reinforces this lighthearted attitude with descriptions such as “the Savagnin Arbois is to traditional Gewürztraminer as Christina Aguilera is to Britney Spears … it is just dirty and funky and super sexy!" – mirthful yet precise.
Our design responds to the owners’ desire to mix old and new by combining noble or classic ‘italian’ materials – travertine, bronze, silk, dark chestnut, weathered oak, cork – within the framework of an articulated contemporary design comprised of a main dining room of sixty-five seats at street level and a private dining room of thirty seats in the cellar. The quiet strength of each ingredient in the palette evokes a distant Italian past within an unabashedly modern vocabulary.
The owners felt that the unprepossessing locale – the non-stop blinking theater district of New York – was too distracting to patrons within the space. While some of the visual verve outside the restaurant on view inside was desirable as a means to connect to the city and remind patrons that the dining experience is joyful, we sheathed the perimeter of the space with silk thread to veil (not obscure) the view both out and in. Overall, the shimmering lighter palette in the main dining room intentionally modulates the abundance of exterior light that streams in day and night to create a spare yet gauzily warm effect. Conversely, the crisp, saturated and darker palette in the private dining room offsets the warm effervescent quality of the first floor by playfully suggesting the atmosphere of a subterranean wine cellar.