In the middle of downtown Manhattan, on a low rooftop, five tiny private greenhouses offer a taste of dining in.
Phase 2 of New York City’s dining restrictions lifted the first week of July, allowing hunker-downers to rejoice at the freedom of fresh air and outdoor cocktails.
Husband-and-wife team Michele and Anisa Iuliano opened Ampia, a 4,500-square-foot rooftop dining destination. Originally scheduled to open in April, the concept launch was delayed by the pandemic.
This wasn’t the original plan, however. Ampia was meant to be a beer garden in the middle of the bustling Financial District before COVID-19 hit.
“While other restaurants were able to pivot to doing delivery/takeout to supplement their revenue throughout COVID, we couldn’t because the Financial District is an extremely corporate neighborhood and since everyone left their offices to work from home, there was no one to even deliver to in the neighborhood,” said co-owner Anisa Iuliano.
So, they had to think of another plan and the idea popped into Anisa’s head, literally, via a pop-up ad.
Appropriately distanced on the rooftop, the greenhouses stand seven-feet tall and are made of polycarbonate plastic that supposedly blocks UV light. Similar to the greenhouses designed for social distancing in Amsterdam, these greenhouses are built for only two.
They may be small, but New Yorkers are used to cramped spaces.
But these aren’t simply fillers until dining reopens in NYC, they’re a new fixture of the restaurant, she said.
There are greenhouses that fit six to eight people on order for the Fall. And, as the weather inevitably cools down, the greenhouses will heat up. The team is planning on making the greenhouses the appropriate temperature for every season.
“This could go on for a very long time, and I really hope it doesn’t, but you just never know what will happen,” said Anisa Iuliano
While searching for rooftop plants for the initial April opening and plexiglass dividers, she stumbled upon the greenhouses.
“My husband thought I was crazy at first, but they turned out to be a big hit. People have been loving them — they are booking three-to-four weeks in advance at this point,” said Anisa Iuliano.
The operators also hired a company that sprayed the entire restaurant and rooftop with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved electrostatic sanitizing spray, which Anisa Iuliano said acts as a base coat that continually disinfects surfaces.
Food is ordered using QR codes and masks are required. If someone enters without a mask, the hands-free facial scanner that checks temperature at the door will tell them to put their mask on.
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