Remember the days when entrepreneurs opened either a separate restaurant, a bakery or gourmet shop and that was suffice to generate a profit. The trend these days is hyphenated businesses, combining several specialties, where multiple revenues flow to generate enough profit to sustain business.
Welcome to Pasta Corner, which opened in midtown Manhattan, in proximity to the Museum of Modern Art on East 53rd Street (where Burger Heaven stood for decades) near trendy Madison and Fifth avenues. It’s a street that attracts a slew of tourists.
Vincent Benoliel, who is 44 years old and a native Parisian, opened Pasta Corner in New York in August 2023 with a friend Matt Pokora, a French pop star. Pasta Corner has bi-coastal roots since Benoliel operates Michelina bakery and the French Crepes in Los Angeles and then the duo opened Pasta Corner at The Original’s Farmer Market in L.A. in 2021.
But it has also expanded overseas and now has Pasta Corner’s in Paris and Lille, France, so it’s covering the globe.
Benoliel said that its revenue stems 80% from the restaurant, 10% from the bakery and 10% for retail sales. It accommodates about 50 people for table service and at the counter overlooking the kitchen.
Upon entering the eatery, the retail items are sold first at the counter, including a wide range of products, olive oils, balsamic vinegar, chocolate, spices and pastas.
Guests of Pasta Corner can opt for either croissants and coffee for breakfast, omelets at lunch or pasta for dinner, where some dishes cost around $16, moderate by New York City prices. Dining on one pasta with a glass of wine costs around $33.
Benoliel said, “We didn’t want our customers to pay $100 a head. We’re a casual restaurant, and I want to reach everybody at these prices.”
When this reporter visited unannounced one weekday late morning, he was welcomed by hostess Nadine but was disappointed that it stops serving breakfast at 11 a.m. And it only serves Nespresso coffee, which owner Benoliel explained, is easy to prepare and ensures consistency but no drip coffee.
But Benoliel explained that the kitchen space is very tight and cramped and they need the space to start preparing lunch.
And in the back of the shop, he has installed a pay phone, which he bought on eBay, for decoration (it doesn’t work), a vestige of New York City’s past.
To finance the New York City outpost, the partners took out an SBA loan but own it entirely and have no angel investors or private equity funders. Benoliel’s other eateries are all self-funded.
Why did Benoliel decide to open in New York City, 3,000 miles from his other Pasta Corner in Los Angeles? He always dreamed of opening a shop in New York and has been spending most of his time there to get it going and is thriving on the city’s boundless energy. He also likes walking, which is the go-to thing to do in New York City, not as much in many parts of Los Angeles.
He said that he has a trusted staff in Los Angeles that can manage the business on their own but does, like many restaurateurs, have video cameras to help stay in touch with the business in California.
Soon he expects to spend two weeks in Los Angeles and two weeks in New York City, becoming truly bi-coastal.
The clientele that comes to Pasta Corner in New York varies. At lunch time, it’s mostly office workers, but tourists arrive for late lunch, and at dinner, it appeals to an array of New Yorkers who have heard about in on social media or recent New York Times “Dining” section updates.
Consumer reaction on Yelp about Pasta Corner was positive and liked the prices. For example, Franny from New York said “a new L.A. import has landed in Midtown with fresh pastas galore at a decent price point.” She praised the pasta salad with eggplant and artichoke, noting its $19 cost.
And Alberta from Manhattan describes “the variety of sauces are in true Italian tradition and true to what Nona (grandma) made.” She said the appetizer portions were hefty and found the service “congenial and prompt.”
A hotel operator from Washington D.C. stopped by Pasta Corner in New York, loved it, and told him about an available space in proximity to the White House in Washington, D.C. He’ll be exploring it as a possibility but nothing has been formalized.
He also expects to open a second Pasta Corner in the NoMad neighborhood with Pokora as partner and another one of his bakeries in NoMad on his own.
Asked the keys to Pasta Corner’s future success, he replied: 1) Maintaining the same prices, 2) Consistency of services.
So why did a French chef open an Italian restaurant? Benoliel replied, “French food is heavy food, and not everyone loves it. Everyone loves pasta, you can be 90 years old and still love pasta, and ours is fresh pasta with a French twist.”