The Always Unique Unik Ernest

It’s about a month in for Cucina Ciano, a restaurant from two nightlife veterans Unik Ernest and Stratis Morfogen. Food and nightlife are no longer strange bedfellows. Most of the real club operators see dining as a way to own or control there crowds in the pre-10pm hours, for many restaurants are a natural progression as the din and late hours of nightlife lose their appeal as they get older. The other great reason for embracing sauces over bottle service is that over diner friends can talk.

The EDM and Mixed format explosion has left most clubs places to be seen but not heard. Loud music drowns out the intelligence. Unik Ernest is the consummate operator/host for a crowd that wants good food and conversation before hitting the sack at a reasonable time. His traditional crowd gets up for their high paying jobs and some even have kids. Cucina Ciano will provide him with a great platform to entertain his crowd of beautiful and successful folk. I caught up with him and asked him all about it.

So tell me about Cucina Ciano.
Cucina Ciano is a seasonal ingredient driven casual atmospheric Italian restaurant that we open last month on the Upper East Side (at 181 E. 78th Street).  We offer a seasonal and simple, farm to fork approach to Italian cuisine, allowing fresh quality ingredients to be the star. Along with Stratis Morfogen and the chef Tin Huynh, we have assembled a formidable team to insure Cucina Ciano will be the best of the best and offer a streamlined, convivial and hospitable dining experience. We offer an extensive wine program, which has a creative half bottle program.

Tell me about why this location works?
We believe that what we bring to the table is definitely a great addition to this neighborhood, and the locals like this type of restaurant that’s on a quiet side street.

Many people think of you as a nightlife person, but I always thought you were grounded in food and service. Tell me about your social approach to dining.
Indeed I do know people think of me as a nightlife person, only because my brother and I have produced for many years the longest and hottest weekly party in the history of nightlife in Manhattan, but then we opened our famous clubs PM followed by Bijoux. I’m sure many people are not aware of my days in South Beach where I was working as a busboy and bar back for Chris Blackwell’s Jamaican restaurant Shabeen on Collins and 12th Street. I’ve been grounded in food and service from the very beginning. My social approach to dining is pretty simple, great service, great food and a cool ambiance.

How are your projects in Haiti going?
My projects with the Edeyo Foundation are going well and I’m using all my hospitality endeavors as a platform to promote and educate people about the real Haiti and get them involved in what our organization is doing on the ground for the children.

What do you think of nightlife in NYC?
To be honest, it is miserable to see what nightlife has become from 1994 to 2010 and we are approaching 2014. I understand what has transpired but the cool factor and fun nights out are GONE. Sometimes I feel to take my drums out with me so I can have a little fun the way we use to do back then.

Does your crowd change as you mature?
Definitely my crowd has grown up, married with children, and evolved with life as a whole but I’m still keeping my eyes on the up and comers in order to keep up with the latest trends and who folks are talking about.

Everyone says that it’s all about service, but few do more than talk. What are your service concepts?
Service for me is something I cannot describe, it is a feeling, savoir faire and an experience as a whole. For example I always say to my doorman, host/hostess, I want to set the tone at the door. I want any patrons that walk up to my venue to feel welcome and when they are ready to leave us, that they feel this moment they had with us was an incredible experience.

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