Rocco Ancarola Has That Boom
The party for the ages happened last night for partner Jason Strauss at Lavo. It was a can’t-miss birthday party that, unfortunately, I had to miss. Jason will forgive me. He is an emperor now, but I knew him when he was just beginning his journey. I can’t imagine what heights he will attain. To the envious club promoter-types who wish they could be king: know that a lot of hard, smart work and sacrifice come with the crown. Happy Birthday Jason.
I was invited by Jason’s long-time partner Noah Tepperberg, and the newest member/partner of the Lavo group, Rocco Ancarola. Rocco also invited me to the 19th Anniversary of Boom, that Spring and West Broadway restaurant hangout. I was one of the few he could invite that was there and is still around. Rocco always wins the award for “guy most likely to throw napkins up in the air.” I think he invented that. The nicest guy in the biz, Rocco and I chatted about Boom, and what it all means.
What is Boom today, and how has it changed over the last 19 years? Boom’s concept was a global menu of original dishes from around the world—not fusion food! it was the first restaurant of its kind, back then. It won a lot of awards, including the prestigious John Mariani Esquire Award for Best Restaurant in the USA. Boom was written up by every major publication in the world. I introduced world music to the ears of my clients, I chose waiters from all over the world, and the uniforms changed periodically, influenced by Africa, India, and so forth. I had people dancing on tables and taking their clothes off during dinner, it was insane, and soon after everyone in New York was trying to do the same. Since I left to do other places, things have quieted down at Boom, but business is still booming!
The menu has changed from the global to all Italian. It still features live bands, and Boom has survived through many snow storms and September 11th—when downtown was a ghost town. So it’s a real pleasure and great satisfaction to see this institution still alive and kicking!
How did Boom start? Boom started as an Idea in the late 80’s when I was living in Los Angeles, pursuing my acting career. I was cast by Oliver Stone in “Wall Stree.” Then Madonna cast me to play her father in the award winning video directed by David Fincher. Even though acting was my calling ever since I was a little boy, the passion of the restaurant world followed me around it was in my blood. I missed New York, so I invested in my idea and built it in Soho, which was my favorite place in New York—an area with very few restaurants. And so Boom was born. What are you up to these days? I was a founding member of the Pink Elephant club and since it closed. I opened a gastro pub called Rabbit in the Moon, but I have since had a falling out with a partner and his family, so I resigned. But I was approached by my friends, Marc Packer, Rich Wolf, Jason Strauss, and Noah Tepperberg to join them, and partner up with them at the new Lavo, so i came on board as a Partner.
There I run my successful Sunday night party (started at Boom back in the day) at Lavo, and I have given it a new flavor and new name. It’s called “Riviera Sundays,” and it’s a take on the Italian Riviera of the 1960’s. Movie stars of that era hung out in these chic Italian restaurants, and enjoyed fine dining with fun music. So I have a DJ playing old Italian & French hits from that era, and I have a live Gipsy Kings style band (which originated on the French Riviera) to entertain the guests while they eat dinner.
Jason, Noah, Marc, and myself have been friends for a long time, and we have always talked about doing something together with Jayma Cardoso (my favorite ex-girlfriend). I think the future is bright. I just hope I can one day give back to them what they have given me now.
I will still pursue my acting dream, and my directing dream. I have a new movie coming out called “Cathedral Canyon,” and I am busy writing a script based on my Mom and Dad’s love story. I will play my Dad. After playing Madonna’s father, I might as well play my own!