“I think we built a freaking great restaurant that people are gonna love, in the best corner of New York City,” says restaurateur Rob Goldman, surveying the dining room of his soon-to-open SoHo restaurant Principe with a sense of excitement. “I’m about to dedicate the next 20 years of my life to this corner.”
On the heels of successful restaurant openings including hot spot Saint Theo’s, Goldman is expanding his Bleecker Street Hospitality Group portfolio with the addition of a seafood-centric restaurant on West Broadway. “I got out of real estate to get into the development of hospitality and restaurants,” Goldman says. “I like building restaurants and eating free food and making them nice.”
Principe is located in a distinct bi-level space that features a wide, unobstructed skylight; the space, owned by Goldman’s family, was previously an art gallery. The brutalist vibe of the concrete room is softened by seafoam-blue accent walls and curtains in the street-level dining room and bar. Large curved concrete panels on the walls lend a wavy quality to the aesthetic. “The space kind of looked like it was a pier carved by the ocean,” says Goldman, describing the room as a “raw bar-centric jewel box.”
Interior designer Katie Vogelsang, who’s collaborated with Goldman on past projects, lightened the space further with the addition of artisanal Italian glass lighting, including whimsical floor lamps and a striking custom Venetian chandelier that visually connects the two levels. A central cantilever staircase leads down to the kitchen and an intimate second dining room, which doubles as a private dining space.
Goldman recruited chef Abram Bissell, an alum of restaurants including The Modern, Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad, to lead the kitchen. The pair met while Goldman worked for the Sydell Group, which developed what is now known as The Ned NoMad. “I’ve been talking to him every time I put a restaurant together, every time I signed a lease somewhere, every time I put a contract together,” Goldman says.
Bissell was living in Anguilla, where he moved mid-pandemic, when Goldman reached out about collaborating on Principe. The SoHo restaurant would allow Bissell to focus on seafood, a goal since he first moved to the city to work as a chef. Much of Principe’s seafood is sourced from the New York and New England coastal region, and the menu also pays subtle homage to Bissell’s Italian American heritage. “Focusing on what our coast provides — but then treating it with that Italian flair, a little bit of a nod to it,” Bissell says of the cuisine concept.
“Something that’s really important to me is clean, pure flavors,” he adds. “When I think of a culture that’s really focused on that, it’s usually Italian. Because it’s about this simplicity, searching out an ingredient that is very special and only doing what has to happen to make it a little bit better. Sometimes that’s nothing; sometimes it’s a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon.”
Bissell offers the restaurant’s oyster as an example of that approach; the raw bar item is sourced from a farm in Hampton Bay and served with a drizzle of citrus grown in New Jersey.
The menu also includes a selection of pastas made in-house, and a dessert program led by “chef di farina” Rebecca Isbell. Every dish is designed for family-style sharing.
For both Bissell and Goldman, each element Principe comes back to the idea of family, whether it’s paying homage to heritage through an ingredient, hospitality or entrepreneurship.
“A hundred years ago, our first family business in America was an Italian American supermarket in Carroll Gardens,” says Goldman, whose family now owns the real estate firm BLDG management. “We’re New Yorkers before anything, and [Principe] pays tribute to what the local food economy produces for us. We want to lean into an honest, true version of our past and what the city was built on.”