In March of 2016, Gabriel Stulman relocated Perla — the most expensive and upscale restaurant in his small West Village empire — to a brighter, airier space on 234 West 4th Street. This move came after extensive, costly renovations on Minetta Lane, and the departure of his opening chef, Michael Toscano. Proving, once again, that Perla is Stulman’s Trojan horse, he’s now decided to close the latest iteration of the Italian restaurant after service on Sunday, July 23. In its place, he’ll open a more casual concept called Fairfax.
“Before Perla, there were not so many restaurants playing hip-hop music and serving innovative Italian cuisine in a relaxed environment with enthusiastic service,” Stulman writes in a letter to his guests — and he’s right that local competition is fierce. Charlie Bird has a strikingly similar model, and West Village neighbors have strong allegiances to Via Carota, dell’anima, and Barbuto. “While many of our neighbors and friends love Perla dearly just the way that it is, the reality is, Perla no longer stands out for many in the way that it once did, particularly with the increased number of Italian restaurants nearby. We are not alone in wrestling with the same set of challenges that restaurateurs across the city are struggling with. Between the increases in cost of goods, rent, labor, and insurance to name a few, there is little leeway remaining in how to manage a successful restaurant.”
Fairfax will open about a week after Perla closes, in early August. Chef Jack Harris will stay onboard, but there will be design and layout changes — hopefully Stulman finds a home for all that incredible art. “It will be a laid-back spot that works throughout the day and becomes a wine bar with great food at night,” he says. This is a savvy move for the neighborhood, which is packed with restaurants, but surprisingly lacking in relaxed options. Fairfax will open for coffee, pastries, and breakfast in the morning, and stay open through the evening. “Throughout my travels, I have been drawn to these places that are more casual than restaurants and more sophisticated than bars.”