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Andrei Bancea on Cipriani: You'll Have to Speak to the Owner

Cipriani

Try the vanilla.Photo: Melissa Hom

Andrei Bancea worked at an Italian restaurant in his native Bucharest, Romania, before moving to Italy for three years and then to the United States, where he started work as a waiter at Downtown Cipriani and eventually moved on to the chain’s 55 Wall Street location. “It’s a very successful company in Italy, so it was a big opportunity,” he says. And a very successful company here, too, if you ignore the tax-evasion and sexual-harassment lawsuits! We asked Andrei what life is like on the inside.

Is the crowd different at 55 Wall than at, say, Cipriani Downtown or the midtown Cipriani?
There is not a difference — it’s a mix of regular people, celebrities, beautiful models… bankers, brokers.

How does one become a member of the private club?
You have to talk to the manager. We have a meeting room for the club members. They have access to the library. By the beginning of March, we’re going to have a full-service spa on the fourth floor. We’re going to have a barber shop and shoe shine. And we’re going to have a billiards room located in the basement.

How much does all that cost?
The price is $5,000, and you have to be approved by Mr. Giuseppe Cipriani.

What sort of preferential treatment do you give regulars who are friends of Giuseppe?
At Cipriani we don’t make any difference between customers — even if they are a regular person or they are celebrities.

Do you get people who say, “Really?! $15.50 for a green salad? $26 for a burger?”
No, because they know about elegance. They know about the food, about the best service. They come to enjoy the Cipriani style.

What’s the biggest bill and tip you’ve seen?
$3,200 for a table of eight people. The tip was $550. It was just a usual dinner.

What about the sexual-harassment suit filed against one of the restaurants — to what extent is the wait staff at Cipriani a boys’ club?
Here nobody is talking about these things. Our only concern is to make the customer happy.

What’s the quintessential Cipriani meal?
I would start with the beef carpaccio for an appetizer. For pasta, I would continue with the baked tagliolini with ham. And then the vanilla meringue.

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