Chef Anna Maria Santorelli had such a huge fan following that by the time she opened her new wine bar in Rye, NY on Jan. 4, she drew overflow crowds.
“The moment I walked in the door, the place was packed! Says Santorelli, the former head chef at Gracie Mansion in NYC under Mayor Giuliani, and entrepreneur restaurant owner. “I was so excited to see my new vision for a wine bar become reality. Coming off selling my restaurant in Larchmont, I was thrilled to be able to reinvent myself in a space I fell in love with the first time I saw it.”
Anna Maria’s Wine Bar was on the cusp of becoming the new “it bar” in Rye when the hammer fell. And the state of New York shut down businesses in accordance with Coronavirus safety measures.
In this week’s Boxerbrand blog Q&A with owner/chef Anna Maria Santorelli of Anna Maria’s Wine Bar, the upbeat, hard-driving restauranteur discusses the dark days of the lockdown and the recent glimmers of hope.
BB: Tell me about March 16, the day you were shutdown.
AMS: March 16th was one of the worst days I’ve had. I had just opened the wine bar, and it was just so depressing to have to close. It was an overwhelming time and we were all praying everything would be okay. I did have my doubts that we’d be coming back, but I remember many people came up to me and promised they’d be back. I get goosebumps saying that now because they all kept their promises.
BB: Tell me about your reopening this month.
AMS: We’ve re-opened up with all social-distancing measures inside. So we went from 38 seats down to 13 inside. But we have an expanded outdoor dining space, thanks to a decision by the Chamber of Commerce to shut down roads near our Purchase Street location.
This allowed our wine bar and other restaurants space to expand their seating capacity beyond the sidewalks, which were too narrow to make good use of. We’ve been able to seat 34 people outside in a tent with three umbrellas.
The ambience is so beautiful. With everything outdoor, it feels like Italy or France. And we’re so happy the local people of Rye have come out to spend their money to support the restaurants.
BB: You even had a celebrity stop by!
AMS: Judge Jeanine Pirro (a television broadcaster) has been a friend of mine for years. We met when she was a DA in Westchester County and I was working at Gracie Mansion in New York City while Mayor Giuliani was in office. She was always very supportive of women’s rights and women business owners, and she made a point to stop by the wine bar. It was great to see her and feel her support and those of my customers.
BB: How are you handling the day to day during these trying times?
AMS: All I can do is stay positive, keep the faith, and not give up. Early on, after the lockdown, I had to sit down with my landlord and explain our situation. I told him we’d do our best, and he was more than happy to work with us.
Every day presents new obstacles, but there’s always hope. That and my faith is what’s keeping me going right now. And I think that once we get the vaccine, this place, the town, and business will be back better than ever! — Anna Maria Santorelli is a treasured Boxerbrand customer. Thank you!