John Meadow, CEO of LDV Hospitality, oversees a portfolio of more than 20 restaurants and bars located everywhere from Miami to Chicago to Las Vegas. In 2004, Meadow opened his own bar, one of the first rooftop terraces in New York, followed by his debut restaurant in the Meatpacking District, where wrong time, wrong place was a bit of a flop. For Meadow, his career really took off when he launched Scarpetta in 2008 to much critical acclaim, including a James Beard Foundation nomination for best restaurant in the country. And in 2019 he brought the celebrated brand to London with the opening of Sette at The Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge.
You have previously described the Scarpetta approach as ‘comfortable but ambitious’ – how do you achieve that? The high-low balance of comfortable yet ambitious, effortless elegance, the art of sprezzatura is at the heart of everything we do at Scarpetta. The philosophy of the kitchen is to enhance the goodness of ingredients and elevate a comfort dish into an elegant indulgence. The best example of this is our signature Spaghetti Scarpetta.
What do you think are the main ingredients of a typical New York restaurant? What New York restaurants do best is to create buzz. No cheesy, sceney club/restaurant buzz, but a natural, cozy space where you feel connected to the other guests around you.
Your hospitality group, LDV, is named after the Italian concept of la dolce vita – how do you incorporate that idea into your restaurants and bars? For me the concept of The good life is rooted in the charm of every day. It’s not about exclusivity or superficial decadence, it’s about everyday charming indulgences. It can be as simple as the perfect espresso served with a smile, or dancing all night after a seven-course tasting menu. We achieve this through our people, who we enable to show their true selves and always be authentic with our guests.
Why did you choose London and specifically Bvlgari London to open Sette by Scarpetta? London is one of the capitals of the world. Our ambition to grow the brand internationally could only have started in London, and what better location than iconic Bvlgari London. We named the restaurant Sette as it was our seventh location.
What are some of the key ways in which the markets differ for restaurants and hospitality in New York and London? In London, the clientele is more international and appreciate nuance and sophistication more than diners in New York, who appreciate the warmth a restaurant offers. Another exciting aspect of London is the produce, while I really respect and admire the farmers and all the artisan suppliers we work with in the US, the European ingredients are just better and more in touch with Mother Nature. However, what I will always love about my city: There is no magic on Earth like the night in New York.
How has Sette by Scarpette changed and adapted since it opened? What might you have learned about the London market that surprised you? We opened in June 2019 and after only eight full months we have opened and closed three more times with the pandemic. Although this is the same for everyone, it was especially challenging to find our rhythm. Fortunately, we are now coming into our own. What makes me happy in the London market is that quality wins. You have to earn the respect of the market (and it is earned with quality), but once you do, you also have its loyalty.