Chef John DeLucie returns to roots with massive Brooklyn eatery
Chef John DeLucie — whose restaurant empire collapsed in stunning fashion in 2015 — is on the rise again with a new Brooklyn eatery housed in a massive 10,000-square-foot warehouse.
DeLucie — who soared to fame more than a decade ago by serving $55 truffle mac and cheese to celebs at Graydon Carter’s Waverly Inn — will open the Ainslie in Williamsburg on Thursday.
The Italian-style eatery, which DeLucie is opening with fellow restaurateurs AJ Bontempo and Sergio and Mario Riva, will seat 340 people and feature a 30-foot airplane hanger door that opens to a beer garden. It will also boast a wine bar with 20 wines by the glass, four wines on tap, and 16 beers from local craft breweries, also on tap.
“I grew up in Brooklyn, in Carroll Gardens. And yet I have never worked in Brooklyn,” DeLucie said in an interview. “It is interesting for me to be here and to be part of an Italian restaurant. Italian cooking is rooted in my culture.”
It’s DeLucie’s third restaurant since 2015, when four eateries he opened after leaving the Waverly shuttered amid an ugly dispute with his former business partner, ex-Lehman Brothers trader Sean Largotta.
The dispute — which led to allegations of financial mismanagement by DeLucie against Largotta — was never resolved. Sources say the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office launched a probe, but no charges were ever filed.
In the meantime, DeLucie lost four restaurants and his gig at St. Regis’ famous King Cole Bar, which DeLucie had been hired to revamp. As The Post reported at the time, the luxe hotel brand didn’t want to be associated with the trouble surrounding Crown Hospitality Group, which had been ordered that same year to cough up $575,000 to waiters who won a class-action suit after being stiffed on tips at DeLucie’s Lion restaurant.
“It was a hard thing for me, personally,” DeLucie told The Post. “I’m a chef, not a businessman. It was quite a revelation. It was a rude, rude awakening for me.”
The chef has since sued Largotta in a lawsuit that blames the former trader for the $575,000 class action by waiters, as well as a slew of other financial woes, including back taxes and fines and penalties from the New York State Department of Labor.
Largotta didn’t return requests for comment.
DeLucie, who once rubbed elbows with Robert De Niro and other celebs at the Waverly, is now a dad, to 15-month-old son Giuseppe, named after his grandfather and nicknamed “Seppe.” He says he’s learned a big lesson from his recent troubles.
“I am a chef. I am busy cutting and hiring cooks and ordering ingredients and blind tasting chicken and doing all these things that chefs do. I was very ignorant to the very important business aspects that I should have paid more attention to. It was a very, very sobering lesson in business for me.”
Burned investors from his Crown Hospitality Group also say they are glad to see him making a comeback.
“John is a good guy and he deserves to succeed. That’s the takeaway,” one former investor said. “He has a beautiful little boy and he definitely needs to earn money.”
Along with the Ainslie, DeLucie also runs Bedford & Co. inside the Renwick Hotel near Grand Central Station, and is behind the Empire Diner in West Chelsea. He also is working on all the food and beverage at the Hotel Grand Union at 34 E. 32nd St., where the restaurant and lounge areas will open in October.
As for the Ainslie, Bontempo says that owning the building allowed them to be creative — adding roof light, for example. The renovation process took two years, “but it was worth it,” he said.
Wood from the factory has been transformed into furniture and the bars, while the old tin ceiling has been repurposed as wainscotting.
“We could never do something like this in Manhattan,” said Bontempo, whose South Village Hospitality group also owns Carroll Place, Osteria Cotta and Follia in Manhattan.
The wine bar and main dining area seat 210 people. There’s also a 70-seat back beer bar that is connected to an outdoor beer garden, a 60-seat living room-style lounge with leather sofas on the mezzanine level, and a 1,000-square-foot, 50-person roof deck and bar.
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