Boutique bites: Lumaca opens in NoMad’s HGU

NEW YORK—The Italian coast is washing up onto the shores of New York. At the helm of recently opened Osteria Lumaca at HGU New York Hotel is John DeLucie, its chef/proprietor, who’s bringing his Southern Italian heritage to the boutique property through taste.

Lumaca, coming from the Italian word for “snail,” encourages guests to slowly savor each meal and live in the moment. The restaurant includes a rooftop bar and lounge, both of which share this mantra.

“Lumaca was designed with a slower pace in mind,” DeLucie said. “The restaurant’s location, tucked away within a historic boutique hotel, helps guests slow down as they set foot inside. With beautiful art enveloping you as soon as you enter, you feel less of a need to stare at your phone.”

Seafood-driven, the 60-seat restaurant features delicacies specific to the Puglia region of Italy, including hamachi crudo, calamari and linguine bottarga with salt-cured fish roe, just to name a few.

“New York has some of the best Italian food outside of Italy, and I like to think Lumaca is a nice addition to that scene,” DeLucie said. “Most Italian restaurants though, try to recreate some aspect of Italy in their design and decor as an add-on to their menus. Most of the time, it does not work since the New York location and vibe break the illusion. Lumaca is different in the sense that it invites guests to enjoy great, authentic Italian food in a setting that is authentically New York. We are not trying to transport guests to Italy; we want to provide them with an experience that is more about the Italian mentality rather than the geographic destination.”

DeLucie also described Lumaca as “a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the NoMad neighborhood outside,” but one that still hints at the city, mainly through its design and art.

“Osteria Lumaca encourages guests to step back and enjoy time spent with friends and family in an intimate setting, tucked away with ambient lighting, a cozy fireplace, comfortable banquettes and memorable artwork,” he said.

Designed by architect Peter Guzy of Asfour Guzy Architects, guests can feast their eyes on the original 1905 Beaux-Arts plasterwork on the ceiling, or possibly sit at the marble-clad bar with custom glass. Keeping with customization, Gallery 151 has curated a custom art collection for the space. 

These distinctions are essential, especially in New York, a city that’s crowded with dining options.

“One of the challenges with having a restaurant in a hotel is that people often don’t want to eat at a hotel restaurant, especially in NYC where there are literally hundreds of great restaurants to choose from in every neighborhood,” DeLucie said. “We want Lumaca to have its own identity and become a stand-alone destination for diners not staying at the hotel while, at the same time, being sensitive to the identity of the hotel and the needs of its guests.”

Keeping with many New York City spaces, however, is Lumaca’s rooftop bar, another intimate setting that seats just 30 guests and 20 at the bar.

“The HGU rooftop is an ode to East Coast summers, designed to make guests feel like they are beachside, outside of the city,” DeLucie said.

In the lounge, guests can enjoy seasonal fare like lobster rolls and tributes to the city like a classic New York hot dog, all from the comfort of blue-and-white plush seating with umbrellas.

Beverage Director Anthony Henriquez heads up the bar, which includes an Italian wine list and cocktails made with seasonal ingredients, extending Lumaca’s quest for creativity, something that DeLucie attributes to the boutique space itself.

“The intimate nature and specific concept of a boutique hotel allow you to inject more personality into a food and beverage concept,” DeLucie said. “When large, branded hotels are thinking about F&B concepts, they are thinking about scalability and serving a large volume of people daily. I am not sure an intimate and personal concept like Lumaca could have been executed in this way at a large, branded hotel.”

DeLucie said that the goal for Lumaca will be to deliver authentic dining experiences for both guests and neighbors, and to include homages to Southern Italy, while still keeping its classic New York charm.

“There will always be something newer and shinier,” DeLucie said. “As long as you deliver quality food and great service, you will find loyal customers. We obviously observe F&B trends, but we do not ride that wave in order to stay relevant. If you authentically connect with your customers, they will find a way to keep coming back.” HB