Roman Deingruber Loves the People-Watching at Cafe Gitane

"We get a lot of the Australian community, like Nicole Kidman."Photo: Melissa Hom

Roman Deingruber was painting for the building super when he learned of a job at Cafe Gitane, the French-Moroccan restaurant thats a refuge for Nolita hipsters when its not mobbed by Soho shoppers on weekends. We asked the video and installation artist to share some of his experiences from the six years spent working his way up from barista to manager.

How have you guys evolved with the neighborhood?
The rent is skyrocketing; stores are popping up next to us. A lot of the regulars dont come as often they're all living in Park Slope or Long Island, or they have families and they had to move out because it was too expensive for them.

Of the old crew, who will still stop in?
Models, photographers Terry Richardson stops by now and then, because he lives in the neighborhood. Anabela Zigova will come in; she's a great Slovakian performance and video artist.

Ever get any A-listers?
Bjrk used to come now and then when she was in town a lot of the Australian community, like Nicole Kidman.

Why Aussies? Because you serve Vegemite?
Weve always had it. They stop by because they like good coffee.

Whats the best time to snag an outdoor seat without waiting?
Between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. On the weekends people wait over an hour sometimes for a table.

Will people hover over tables?
Sometimes, because theyre inconsiderate or the sidewalk will be full we try to keep them away.

What do you do about people who hear the word caf and linger all day?
People know that the neighborhood is changing and they cant really hang out. We do sometimes have to, in a nice way, force people out.

Has your signature tower of couscous ever fallen while youre serving it?
It has happened in the past once in years.

Do people try to light up at the outdoor tables?
A lot of Europeans. We just tell them they have to stand up if you have awnings over the tables, its considered indoors.

You must do a lot of people-watching from the open windows.
Thats the best thing. Late at night theres this Chinese guy on the bicycle. He has two kids: one kid sitting in the front facing him, and the other kid sitting in the back holding his waist. Theyre small kids sitting in baskets. Its nice to see every night the same thing.