Recently opened Galli Restaurant in SoHo has become a smash success very quickly thanks to its owner and chef Steven Gallo. Growing up in an Italian family, Gallo found himself keeping busy in the kitchens of his family’s restaurant. Making his way through each job, from bus boy to cooking to working the pizza counter, Steven did it all, and he learned a few things on the way. At his restaurant, Galli, Steven brings traditional Italian comfort food a modern feel with mouthwatering classic dishes such as Penne Vodka and Chicken Marsala. We chat with the successful entrepreneur about his favorite dishes at Galli, working with his wife and more!
Why did you decide to open your restaurant in SoHo?
My first solo project was the restaurant Brio downtown, an upscale Italian restaurant that opened in 2010. I then began searching for my second space, with Michael Forrest, which would ultimately become Galli in 2012. The name of the restaurant was easy, Galli (as the plural for Gallo is Galli, bringing together this group of young entrepreneurs). It took me two years to find the space on Mercer Street and several months to create the environment I envisioned for my eatery. I had a vision to bring together traditional Italian comfort food based on cuisine that I learned from my family’s restaurant but with a twist to incorporate the new era. Soho was the perfect setting for my new venture as it the center for shopping and everything else in NYC! Galli is a hidden gem in Soho – a mix of vintage/bistro/industrial — everything which is Soho.
What do you think sets your restaurant apart from other Italian restaurants in the city?
What sets Galli apart is the heart and soul behind the project from start to finish. Galli brings Italian comfort food to the spotlight, serving my tried-and-true Gallo family recipes and modern, instant favorites, in a contemporary, fresh atmosphere. It is a great neighborhood spot where we do versions of very familiar dishes. Besides being the owner, I am the chef! Every morning I am there in the kitchen starting the daily ritual of crafting the tomato sauce. I am often in the restaurant to greet new and regular customers, getting to know them. It’s a place for neighborhood patrons, tourists, & VIP’s alike. Galli is a place where “everybody knows your name.”
Where do you source your ingredients from?
The ingredients are the freshest of ingredients–we like to use organic and local ingredients. The great thing about Manhattan is how efficient the food service business is. We can place an order up to 2AM with some of our vendors and then get delivery that morning. That means every day we are able to offer our customers the freshest ingredients available.
Did you always know you wanted to be in the restaurant business?
I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and dreamed of opening my own restaurant where I could showcase that easy, affordable Italian comfort food but with a twist of fun, injecting music into the dining experience as if you are at a family party. From Biggie Smalls to Otis Redding to Phoenix to MGMT, the music at Galli continues to celebrate the old with the new. At Galli we bring my traditional roots to the dishes but sometimes with a more modern feel. Like the Chicken Parm Sliders and Meatball Parm Sliders or my wife’s favorite, the Kale Salad or the Integrale Pasta, made with whole wheat pasta.
How was it collaborating with your wife on the design of the restaurant?
It was fantastic collaborating with my wife, she has a great eye and she brought my (our) vision to life. The “new school” atmosphere was influenced by Karen who is a creative consultant and fashion stylist. She designed the interior of Galli with a nod to the traditional (Italian marble, original brick walls and large comfortable booths) but with a look and feel of a modern café (high ceilings, pink neon signs and one communal table all under a grand glass roof). She knew just how to make the space compliment the food and vibe I was looking for.