Osteria Elisir closes, Fargione looks at reality show deal

January 28, 2014

On Saturday during a planned conference call with investors, Enzo Fargione got the bad news. His financial backers had opted to pull the plug on Osteria Elisir, the chef's comfy downtown restaurant that originally launched in 2011 as a modern Italian outpost with high-concept tasting menus. Elisir's last service was Saturday.

Enzo Fargione is weighing his options following the closing of Osteria Elisir. (Michael Palmer) Enzo Fargione is weighing his options following the closing of Osteria Elisir. (Michael Palmer)

"We’re not doing the numbers that we needed to do," Fargione said by phone this afternoon after he first posted the news on DonRockwell.com. "We took a vote and decided to cut the losses.”

Fargione said he had no hard feelings about his backers' decision. He said they have supported him for more than two years, through thick and thin, from Elisir's initial modernist concept to the informal osteria, which Fargione launched last spring. The chef said he knew their decision was not a commentary about his food, but about the business generated by Elisir.

"They are always going to have a special place in my heart because they believed in the same thing I did," Fargione said.

The chef and owner informed the staff on Saturday about the imminent closing. "They were as surprised as we were," he said. Later that evening, Fargione opened up  the bar, and "we hugged and wished everybody good luck," he said.

Fargione said he was helping his former employees, more than 15 of them, find jobs at other restaurants. As for himself, the chef said he's weighing various options. Among them: He's in early talks with producers about a reality TV show. He's also looking at a possible deal with an "elite supermarket" to sell a line of Enzo Fargione-branded products, such as ready-to-eat meals and pasta sauces. He says he may even launch another Italian concept, which he can't yet discuss.

"I think I’m going to relax a little bit," Fargione adds. Well, he'll relax between interviews and events already lined up to promote his debut cookbook and memoir, "Visual Eats: A Behind the Scenes Look at Modern Italian Cooking."

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.
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