Robin Caiola

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Tavern’s Full Tilt Opening

Beverly Stephen - May 12th, 2014

Tavern on the Green celebrated Mother’s Day with 1,500 booked each day this past weekend even though they only started serving dinner on their much-delayed April 24 opening. Tonight they expect 1,200 guests for a gala black tie grand opening. And they’ve already received a couple thousand requests for weddings.

Talk about dreaming big. Co-owner Jim Caiola of Philadelphia’s The Emerald Green Group says he wants to “try to keep the magic” he always felt at Tavern since first visiting the Central Park restaurant in his early twenties. And he would like to keep the gross over $30 million, almost matching the $38 million Tavern reported when it was the highest grossing restaurant in the United States. “This is the best location in the universe for a restaurant,” he believed strongly enough to move to New York City and gamble on this monumental project.

It’s a tall order. Remember, magic was stock in trade for former owner Warner LeRoy, who grew up on the backlot of The Wizard of Oz.

LeRoy also specialized in larger than life glitz and glamour, which is not re-created in the new version of Tavern.

Today’s Tavern harks back to the original Victorian elegance of the building and is smaller, though it still seats 410 indoors.

Presiding over the open kitchen delineated by hearth ovens, planchas, and grills is executive chef Katy Sparks (of Quilty’s fame and more recently of Katy Sparks Culinary Consulting). Her more moderately priced American menu, as well as the restaurant itself, is designed to be more accessible to a wider number of New Yorkers. Though Tavern will still do special events, the focus will be on à la carte dining, and there is even a take-out window facing the park.

“We want to be more focused on food and on the park,” says Caiola.