AS THE TACTICAL MASTERMIND behind New York hotspots The Dutch and Locanda Verde, restaurateur Luke Ostrom knows a thing or two about how to keep an eatery haute. He names great food, hospitality and intuiting guests’ needs as key, but we’re betting that partnerships like that with Robert De Niro on Locanda Verde can’t hurt either. Ostrom sat down with Haute Living to discuss his start as a cook, what eateries he frequents on his nights off and his Kerouacian journey from cook to restaurateur. Never fear, New York gastronomes, he’s since put down roots.
I still really enjoy cooking, either for myself when I have the time, or friends and family.
How did you begin your career in the culinary world?
I actually started pretty young on the other side of where I am now–cooking as a chef. The great thing about cooking is that it’s easy to lead this itinerant sort of life style, so I ended up living and cooking at many different places after I graduated from culinary school at Johnson & Wales [University.] A little over a decade ago, I came to New York and found my partner Andrew Carmellini at Café Boulud, where I cooked by his side for several years before leaving the chef whites behind to fully assume the role of an owner-operator in our subsequent projects. Now, along with our partner Josh Pickard, our outfit has three restaurants: two in New York City and one in Miami–and hopefully more in the future.
What restaurants have you previously opened?
After Café Boulud, I opened the original A Voce, which I am no longer affiliated with. Then came Locanda Verde in Robert De Niro’s Tribeca hotel, The Greenwich, and The Dutch in my own neighborhood, Soho. Most recently we took The Dutch to Miami and opened in the W South Beach.
What appetizer, entrée and dessert dishes is The Dutch best known for?
We’re really proud of the raw bar and our prime meats–I love looking out over the dining room and seeing shellfish towers everywhere, that’s how I like to eat. On the other side of the menu there’s a whole lot of seasonal dishes that are more roots-inspired, from a lamb neck mole with 30-plus ingredients, to a great piece of steamed snapper with mussel-lemongrass curry. People seem to have latched on to the Little Oyster Sandwiches, so we’re sure to keep them on the menu all the time. They’re kind of the darlings of the menu–easy to like.
What is the secret to running a successful restaurant?
You have to really care, relentlessly, about every little detail and always be aware of what your clientele is looking for when they seek a great experience. Creating a healthy working environment keeps the engine running, and most importantly, great food and hospitality will always put some smiles on our guests. The social nature of the work has really become a lifestyle for me, balanced with the physicality (my attempt to keep in shape).
When you’re not at Locanda Verde or The Dutch, where can we find you dining?
I have a pretty tight orbit when I’m home in New York because I like to spend as much time as I can at both of our restaurants. You can usually find me at Lure Fishbar or Aurora, a little Italian place in Soho. I had a couple great meals at Tertulia recently too.
What is your favorite drink?
I’m pretty easily pleased with a glass of red wine, or a well-made Negroni can always do the trick.
What is your favorite pastime?
Now that I’m no longer obliged to do it day in and day out on a professional level, I still really enjoy cooking, either for myself when I have the time, or friends and family.