We've got good news and bad news, little monsters: Joanne, the forthcoming Upper West Side eatery from Joe Germanotta (a.k.a. Daddy Gaga), won’t open this week as planned, but it will open very soon. Chef Art Smith says he expects service to begin around January 1: “The kitchen is not 100 percent complete,” Smith says, as the custom-made pizza oven and counter have yet to be installed. Now the good news: Smith passed along some photos and told us plenty about a restaurant that promises to be one of the New Year's first (and biggest) openings.
Even though Smith already owns restaurants in Chicago, Washington D.C., Palo Alto, and Atlanta, he says his first venture in New York is very meaningful: “It’s such a huge responsibility, because New Yorkers are the most savvy food people in the world,” he tells us. “I was supposed to be a concert pianist. I wanted to go to Juilliard. But I wasn’t good enough. It’s very emotional for me. I always wanted to come to New York and live here.”
So how did Smith get hooked up with Germanotta in the first place? Turns out, in early 2010, Smith appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show so that his former client could congratulate him on losing 85 pounds and reversing his Type 2 diabetes. While there, “I heard somebody say ‘Gaga’ and I asked, ‘Where is she?’ and they said she was going to be on tomorrow. I thought, We have to cook for her.” Smith credits dancing to "Born This Way" as part of his successful exercise regimen. “Personally, as a gay man, I had my own challenges with that. I was bullied in the kitchen, called effeminate, yelled at, screamed at. I used to hide down by the chocolate,” which Smith says probably explains his passion for sweets and baking.
And when he did cook for her, Smith says, “She ran over to me and said, ‘I loved you on Top Chef Masters. You should have won.’ And I said, ‘Honey, I did win — you remembered me.’” Gaga began inviting Smith to her concerts, and eventually he met her father, Joe, who long wanted to open a restaurant.
When Joanne does open, expect a 65-seat space that Smith calls "very small ... very inviting," and a menu that combines Germanotta's Italian heritage with Smith's Southern upbringing in dishes like a Caprese salad with fried green tomatoes and grits instead of polenta, Grandma Germanotta’s zucchini fritters, wedding soup with liver dumplings, homemade pastas, oven-roasted chicken, rosemary-focaccia bread, and, according to Smith, “a lot of pies and tarts and things of that sort” for dessert.