Chef and co-owner Franco Sampogna, General Manager Bernardo Silva and Sommelier Quentin Vauleon, all 30 and under, are the three young rock stars taking over the New York restaurant scene. This power team, which serves up some tasty dishes at their newly opened contemporary French restaurant, Frevo, is doing things their own way. Despite a façade which looks like an art gallery and no obvious sign that there is a restaurant behind a “secret” door, Frevo’s seasonal menus and creative concepts already have them filling up seats fast!
With a total of 18 guests at the chef’s counter as well a private chef’s table, you will be to get an up close and personal look at what kind of masterfully crafted cuisine is cooking. The flavorful fare served at Frevo is just as electrifying as the restaurant’s rocking area – after all, they are located right next to Jimmy Hendrix’s legendary Electric Lady Studios in the West Village. Chef Franco Sampogna’s innovative five-course menu consists of two appetizers, a meat and fish course, and of course, a decadent dessert.
Bernardo Silva, who is originally from Portugal, moved to the South of France at 17 to work in his godfather’s hotel, and immediately fell in love with the hospitality business. “The rooms were all decorated with art, which I loved, and I did every job, from restaurant service to hotel manager. I wanted to expand my knowledge and study the business side of things, so I enrolled in a hospitality and restaurant management program in France. I moved to Paris to work with a luxury hotel and started out at the five-star Shangri-La. I also worked in yachts and met some very interesting people. After a while, I wanted to go back to the restaurant scene and began working with well-known a chef at a Michel star restaurant which mixed fine dining with a more relaxed atmosphere. It was a great experience. I really loved the techniques and realized that the high-end dining world was changing – guests were looking for something less pretentious in the overall experience.”
These Frevo founders first came to New York about three a half years ago, and have been revolutionizing French cuisine with their fresh menus. “Franco first contacted me to come to New York to help renovate and open a restaurant for an investor,” said Silva. “He needed a manager to help with the service and I always knew that we would have a project of our own one day. The restaurant scene here is amazing. The people are from everywhere and have seen a lot of things and expect the best. When you get a rewarding review from a New Yorker, it’s the best compliment that you can get. Other than the fact that he’s an amazing and talented chef, Franco was always open to different concepts and passionate about playing with art and interior design. We started planning ideas back in the day when we first met about ten years ago. We have similar goals and ambitions and it’s worked for us.”
These bad boys of the restaurant business also don’t mind breaking the rules. “Chef Franco Sampogna is brilliant with fish,” explained Quentin Vauleon, 27, who was named the Best Young Sommelier in France. “We started with the halibut and wanted to highlight it with a light red wine. We’re now working with the scallop and pairing it with the red wine as well. We’re really doing things our own way – it’s not just about white with seafood and red with meat here. We sometimes pear wine ciders and beers with desserts too.”
During the first few months, the restaurant didn’t have a liquor license, so Quentin started creating fresh juices, including a concoction with cucumber, ginger, green apple, tomatoe, strawberry, pepper and juniper. While this became a popular choice, you can now order wine from around the world and choose between the $96 wine pairing or a $220 premium wine pairing, inclusive of service. “I don’t come from a wine region. I’m from Brittany, France. It’s a beautiful region but there’s no wine. I was very curious about food and gastronomical culture and eventually fell in love with the wine industry. I wanted to learn more about it so I started working in Paris at 21 and then spent five years there practicing in beautiful spaces, including the Ritz Hotel during their reopening.”
Quentin also travels regularly in order to meet producers and select his perfect pairings. “People in New York are very open to trying new types of wine. We have a lot of wines from France, of course, but also incorporate bottles form Spain, Italy Switzerland, Morocco and even New World wines from the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Our high-end pairings include champagne to start and always a Burgundy, while our regular wine pairing is focused on smaller producers of wines. We have an open exchange with the customer, it’s not just about pouring the wine. That’s really why I love this job. You also have a lot of distributors in New York, and they always let us come and taste and discover. The whole world is getting better every year at producing great wines.”
The brilliant Brazilian-born Chef Sampogna, who previously spent years working alongside France’s most acclaimed chefs, including Alain Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athénée’s restaurant, even beat out thousands of contents to win second place at the international San Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 competition when he was just 24 years old. Franco, who went to culinary school in Nice, France, brings his own charm and flavor to Frevo!
“I love the diversity of New York, and the fact that you can find any kind of cuisine that you want wherever you are. At Frevo, our goal was to bring the highest quality of food to a very unique setup. We want to make sure everyone has the best experience possible. It’s a very small and intimate environment that allows us to bring a special touch to the restaurant. We use a lot of ingredients, from curry to herbs and spices, and are always going back to the French technique of simplicity. Our menu is five-courses, and I promise you won’t leave hungry. I worked at some great restaurants, I wanted to learn the right way. We create our menus, which change every two to three months, by following the seasons. I’m waiting to add black truffle to the next menu. Every dish here has to be a ten. A seven isn’t going to make it onto the menu. A lot of restaurants are very transactional, but guests here have a real relationship with us. We’re having a conversation, an interaction with you. Our diners also love that the restaurant is a bit secretive, and they don’t want us to tell anyone about it because they want to be able to get in. I tell them that that is completely fine if they help us pay the rent! I was 28 when we opened the restaurant so we couldn’t afford a larger space at the time, but it worked out because we made the restaurant unique.”
Franco, who enjoys exploring the area’s farmers markets and picking the best products, is loving creating contemporary French cuisine in New York. “I’ve always also had a dream about making it in New York, even before coming here. Our menu is approachable. People can look at items and relate to them, they don’t have to go into a dictionary to look things up. We don’t use overcomplicated products. I really think simplicity is better sometimes.”
Rather than turning the gallery area in the front into a bar, they decided to fill it with artwork from an artist Toma-L whose work he had admired for years – and yes, it’s all for sale and changes with the seasons just like the food!