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 chains 55 Wall Street location. Its 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 its 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, were going to have a full-service spa on the fourth floor. Were going to have a barber shop and shoe shine. And were 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 dont 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.
Whats the biggest bill and tip youve 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.
Whats 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.