New Dining Option To Open In Morningside Heights

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Remodeled facade of soon-to-be-open Cafe Bagutta

Fashion designer Marc Bagutta is opening an eatery in the empty space once occupied by Cafe Fresh.

Serving its first customers this Saturday with brunch, the eponymous Cafe Bagutta will offer continental cuisine, coffee, and wine seven days a week, but the new owner also has a grander scheme in mind.

“I want to bring the flavor, the soul, and the music of old Spanish Harlem here,” says Bagutta. “But I’m bringing downtown uptown, too. I want this place to be Raoul’s meets the Apollo.”

Bagutta is a first-time restaurateur, but he is by no means new to the world of business. He designs his own line of high-end dress shirts and was the man Russell Simmons turned to for help in launch the Phat Farm clothing line in the early 1990s. Until recently, Bagutta also operated an upscale boutique in SoHo that sold, among other items, $18,000 coats and $13,000 gowns to the likes of Johnny Depp and Julianne Moore.

So why is a businessman so intimately tied to the fashion industry opening a cafe next to Columbia?

“I have always wanted to open a restaurant,” he begins. “and I came here to be shown this space for sale. I hated [Cafe Fresh], but I fell in love with the location.”

A little less than two months later, and Bagutta’s dream appears to be rapidly coming true. That’s not to say there haven’t been any bumps along the way—extensive remodeling was needed to rehabilitate the space and a neighbor’s complaints to the city brought work to a temporary halt in early July—but now, as Bagutta puts it, “the West Village has come uptown.”

Perhaps the most obvious way in which Cafe Bagutta hopes to create this fusion is through regular art exhibitions. Empty frames hanging along the bar counter Wednesday afternoon were soon to be filled with photos and prints from artists whom Bagutta knows personally, including commercial photographer Rob Zuckerman, National Portrait Gallery artist Benjamin Anderson, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Music performances are also on the slate for the cafe, which now has more open dining room floor space thanks to a recessed bar and kitchen area. Furnishings are sparse and tasteful, relying on wood and aluminum in keeping with the Art Deco feel Bagutta seeks to cultivate. “I want this to be like the literary cafes in Berlin in the 1920s,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean bring your laptop. Despite sharing the neighborhood with a major university and its thousands of WiFi-hungry students, Cafe Bagutta will not be offering its tables as a makeshift study lounge.

“This is not a place where you come with your computer and hang out for five hours,” Bagutta explains. “I want this to be a more creative, artistic place. I want this to be a place for people to express their individuality.”

As of Wednesday, workers are still putting the finishing touches on the interior, which Bagutta designed himself. Only a few of the kitchen appliances have been installed, and the lettering on the cafe’s windows is not complete. Even the menu is not set yet—Bagutta says he is still placing bulk food orders for Saturday’s grand opening.

But Bagutta fully expects his new cafe to be open for business by the weekend, ready to serve the steadily increasing trickle of students returning to campus for the fall semester.

“I’m putting my heart and soul into this,” he says.

Entrees at Cafe Bagutta will be priced between $6 and $14. A Web site—including a complete menu—will be up and running later this month.


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  1. Cafeman  

    This I like! Goodbye forever cafe (not) fresh.

  2. Speedy

    What if my creativity takes longer than two hours to express itself? Boo.

    Also, please don't say there's a "steadily increasing trickle of students returning to campus for the fall semester," as though we're almost there. At *least* five more weeks of summer await. Don't kill it yet?

  3. haakon's

    have you guys posted about the opening of haakon's hall yet?

  4. Wow

    This guy sounds like a tremendous douchenozzle. Give me Five Guys or Give me Death.

  5. hmph

    I loved cafe fresh, in all of its slow service and insolence. also, the m to f woman who ran the counter was incredibly nice and one of my favorite people in the neighborhood. this new place had better serve coffee, have nice window seats, and be queer-friendly too. There are surprisingly few places in Morningside Heights that fulfill all of those criteria.

    • excuse me?

      queer-friendly? what does a restaurant need to do to be queer-friendly? i was pretty sure most restaurants, businesses, etc. in the neighborhood were friendly to the gay community, no?

      • yeah

        I am also rather curious as to what the poster means by that. I'm a lesbian and have taken girls out to many restaurants in the neighborhood without anyone so much as batting an eye. Nevermind the neighborhood, where in the city isn't "queer friendly?" Are you looking for places with a giant pride flag on the window or something?

  6. hey!

    it already looks like a shithole!

  7. egh

    you would think that the recession would prevent these kind of pseudo-intellectual/artistic ventures from opening. but, it's not like there is a dearth of retail space open in the city - bagutta seems like a smart businessman. columbia hipsters love to pretend they're some intellectual out of a woody allen movie and will most likely continue doing so at a place like this (all it really takes is the word wine)

  8. gustav stresemann

    "I want this to be like the literary cafes in Berlin in the 1920s," he says.

    ah, yes, the dawn of a new golden age! nothing could possibly go wrong! it'll be just like berlin in the 1920s!

    oh, wait.

  9. hmm

    pretentious and an eyesore to boot.

    here's to hoping his cafe fails as hard as his understanding of the 1920s berlin literary scene.

  10. ...

    "This is not a place where you come with your computer and hang out for five hours," Bagutta explains. "I want this to be a more creative, artistic place. I want this to be a place for people to express their individuality."

    Basically, you can bring your computer as long as you hide it in a giant Moleskine.

  11. CC '09

    I think this sounds like a nice addition to the neighborhood. Given how packed Kitchenette, Le Monde and Community get on the weekends a little bit of the west village in morningside heights that serves good brunch is definitely a good thing. Especially since Cafe Fresh was terrible.

  12. Surfin' UWS

    "Pretentious & an eyesore"

    I hope you sense the irony to that post, my dear.

  13. hmm

    which one was cafe fresh again?

    Heyyy thanks for bringing the west village and spanish harlem and Berlin and france and Azerbaijan to Morningside Heights but I'd rather you just brought us a taco bell

    k thanks

  14. umm

    how many failed restauranteurs have to keep vowing to "bring downtown uptown" before they realize that the village felt like the village for a reason, morningside felt like morningside for a reason, and now they're both so boringly gentrified that, beyond the layout of the streets, they both basically feel the same.

  15. angelica's pizza

    opened where Tokyo Pop used to be right?


    Haakon's Hall is great, guys. I went with a friend for dinner. Entrees are from $12-16, but the portions are a little smaller. Still, the service was excellent and we even got free soup compliments of the chef.

    The restaurant is very cozy and is great for group outings because of the semicircular seating. Though I would recommend ordering an appetizer to go along with the slightly smaller sized entrees.

  17. colbert report

    columbia law school prof on colbert past wednesday...what a cutie!!!


  18. Um,

    it would be nice if Bwog posted an address for this place. Sorry if I am ignorant because I don't know where Cafe Fresh used to be.

  19. hm.

    I'm skeptical of any place that aspires to be like Raoul's.

  20. ALERT

    Hey Bwog!

    I was searching YouTube for stuff on the Vendys and found THIS! (PrezBo on WNYC Radio)


  21. WOOO

    Wooo Columbia Ivy league champs in triathlon

  22. plz

    im dying here. 5 days without a new story? seriously, bwog, you're acting as though it's summer vacation.

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