Popular pizzeria gets the go-ahead in West Chelsea

West Chelsea will add a new pizzeria to the growing gang of nightlife destinations on W. 17th St. after the local community board approved an application for a popular slice joint at the corner of 10th Ave.

The restaurant, the second outpost of the acclaimed East Village Artichoke Basille’s Pizza and Brewery, will open smack in the middle of the nascent nightlife nexus next to the new High Line park. Book-ended by high-traffic nightclubs 1 OAK and Avenue, the pizzeria will feature extended hours of operation to cater to clubbers looking for a late-night meal after partying at the nearby hotspots.

Noah Tepperberg, the successful entrepreneur behind Avenue and the popular mega-club Marquee farther up on 10th Ave., teamed up with the Artichoke clan to take over the vacant corner space formerly occupied by the Red Rock West Saloon. After Community Board 4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee shot down Artichoke’s request for a full liquor license a month earlier, the operators returned on Nov. 9 with a revised plan, seeking only a beer-and-wine license that includes scaled-back hours of operation.

“Our goal is not to make this a rowdy nightspot,” said Tepperberg, who attended the meeting with the cousins behind Artichoke’s trendy 14th St. takeout joint, Sal Basille and Francis Garcia. “It will do wonders for the block.” He added that the pizzeria should open sometime early next year.

At the October meeting, the operators appeared to reject the committee’s call for a downgraded liquor license but nonetheless tweaked their plan in order to appease the community. Tepperberg and company ultimately agreed to do away with hard liquor altogether—which will admittedly impact their bottom line—and settled for serving only beer and wine until 1:30 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends. The 200-seat restaurant will operate until 4 a.m. seven nights per week, while the separate takeout window will close at midnight every night, per the committee’s request. The takeout portion has also removed alcohol from its operation to assuage concerns, Tepperberg noted.

“I’m encouraged from the standpoint of coming back with an application that’s far different from the last one,” said committee member Tony Juliano. “Your willingness to stop serving alcohol of any kind after 1:30 [on weekdays] I think bodes well, and I think we’re talking about a restaurant—and it’s probably needed.”

The pizzeria will also employ a security guard, who Tepperberg said will work when needed with bouncers from his adjacent club, as well as feature outdoor design elements to prevent patrons from massing at the corner in a disorderly way.

Committee member Corey Johnson asked that the operators “live up to” their promise of using outside security to assist with crowds, because the board can’t make that stipulation itself. “If you’re going to say it to these people here today, I really want that to be the case if there’s a problem,” he said. “The biggest issue here is the crowd control and the queuing, so if you can really make that commitment here today, it would be a big deal.”

While the hope is that revelers will use the restaurant as a pit stop to fill up on pizza after leaving the clubs, some still worry that the crowds will exacerbate the already unstable situation on the block.

“You’ll have every drunk going there at 3:30 a.m. and mayhem in the streets,” said Greg Gushee, a senior vice president with the Related Companies, which owns the luxury Caledonia residential development across the street from the proposed restaurant. “What can be done to limit the hours?” he added. “Because, again, 4 a.m., pizza and beer—that’s a party crowd.”

A female resident of 457 W. 17th St., the building that houses the restaurant, also objected to alcohol sales because of the already raucous situation she observes on the streets below her apartment. “Every night we cannot sleep till 6 o’clock in the morning—6 o’clock,” noted the tenant, who has young children and has lived at the address since 2001.

“They’re vomiting there, they’re sleeping there—it’s terrible, it’s terrible.”

Tepperberg had earlier stated that residents of the building told him they would oppose any plan for the space because they are locked in litigation with the current landlord.

Raymond Mordekhai, who came to the meeting representing the landlord, explained that the owners selected Artichoke after entertaining “literally hundreds” of offers for the space.

“We handpicked Noah, and we actually took less money for this operation, as we had higher offers,” he said. “We literally had dozens of copycats of Red Rock that wanted to open up here, and we said absolutely not, because we don’t want to be the landlord for that kind of operation.” The former Red Rock West Saloon, a biker bar, had earned a negative reputation with the community during its years in the space.

The Artichoke boys also got a boost from Francis Garcia’s mother, Joy Garcia, who has operated a pizzeria on Staten Island for the past 21 years and vouched for her son’s intentions. “We’re a family restaurant—we’re not in the bar business,” she said, “and that’s what Artichoke is going to be like.”

Despite fears voiced by neighbors in the area—including “a lot more chaos in an already chaotic environment” according to one Caledonia resident—the committee reminded that the State Liquor Authority rarely turns down beer-and-wine applications. “I think it’s a good gesture,” Johnson said of the modified application. “I am happy that you have come back with the change—that’s what was asked of you last week, so you deserve praise.”

If anything, the committee argued, Artichoke will act to winnow the number of people gathering on the street by luring them in with the restaurant’s renowned pies.

“There’s a good chance that any of those screaming people that want to get pizza—it’s now going to be his problem inside his place, which gets them off the street,” said committee member Paul Seres. “Get a little food in them, absorb some of the alcohol, and we can send them on their way.”