A few years ago, when chef Michael Toscano looked at New York City, all he saw was an uncooperative subway system, overpriced apartments and cramped restaurant kitchens.
“I’m salivating over the space here,” Toscano told The Post and Courier soon after he decamped to downtown Charleston to open Le Farfalle. “We have the ability to really go the full distance.”
In retrospect, Toscano says he overestimated the creative value of square footage. While Le Farfalle will continue to operate as usual, Toscano recently announced he’s planning to return to the same New York City venue which in 2016 occasioned his complaints.
Michael and Caitlin Toscano plan to later this year open Toscano at 24 Minetta Lane. The address previously belonged to Perla, which Michael Toscano in 2012 opened after leaving Mario Batali’s hospitality group. According to Toscano, the building’s owner called the Toscanos to suggest they lease the restaurant.
“Having all of the space isn’t the most important thing after all,” Toscano says. “Having a little restaurant pushes you to be better.”
Toscano says the realization that there are nuances to what he once considered an indisputable fact is in line with the maturing he’s done since coming to Charleston.
“When you live in New York, you think it’s the only place that exists,” he says, meaning that the city’s high-end chefs tend to believe their choice is to live there or not. But from a distance, he can see that it’s just one fixed point on the coastal spectrum and appreciate the advantages of geographic fluidity.
For example, Toscano is looking forward to serving pork from Holy City Hogs and other Lowcountry products “that make sense” at Toscano.
He also envisions encouraging Le Farfalle employees’ culinary education by allowing them to stay in the Toscanos’ apartment while interning in New York City restaurants.
“Maybe you wouldn’t have courage to do that on your own,” he says, referring to the hurdles typically associated with a months-long sojourn in the city.
“We feel it’s going to help our Charleston restaurant,” he says.
One of the primary reasons that the Toscanos originally fled New York was the couple wanted to spend more time with their young children.
“The dream is the kids are going to be eating family meal with us and the staff,” Toscano was quoted as saying in The Post and Courier’s 2016 story chronicling a dozen chefs and sommeliers who’d decisively swapped New York City for Charleston, including Damon Wise, Katy Keefe, Shuai Wang and Justin Coleman.
But Toscano says their 7-year-old son, who will stay in school here, is ecstatic about the dual residences. He remembers his friends and snow and tree-lined streets. When told about the arrangement, the first thing he wanted to know was whether the family could go to New York City for Christmas.