At the helm of the newly opened restaurant The National Greenwich is celebrity chef, restaurateur, and former Greenwich resident Geoffrey Zakarian. He partnered up with commercial real estate developer Lou Ceruzzi as he developed the building with a restaurant in mind. Margaret Zakarian, Geoffrey’s wife and a marketing heavyweight, handles the PR, marketing, and overall feel of the space.
Greenwich Affair took a seat at the table to have a quick chat with the trio about their new restaurant, what they eat at home, and the Greenwich community. Here’s what they said.
1. What about the town of Greenwich made it the right fit for The National Greenwich?
Margaret: “Everything! It is such a sophisticated and elegant town with a laid back sensibility. We envisioned a casual restaurant where people could come many times a week—for a burger and an excellent glass of wine, for a quick business lunch, a cocktail and dinner at the bar, or even for a special birthday meal.”
Geoffrey: “Well, I lived here for a while, loved the environment and the people. That’s all it took!”
Lou: “Greenwich Avenue is one of the most famous thorough-fairs in the United States and holds its place along with other famous retail boulevards such as Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive. With an affluent and food savvy population, Greenwich was a perfect location for the upscale, sophisticated and yet casual food program that we have created at The National.”
2. What was the inspiration behind making The National Greenwich a reality?
Geoffrey: “I wanted a simple honest neighborhood joint with great food and proper drinks. That’s where we started and I think we delivered to a good level. We have only been open a few months. But we are pleased so far and growing every day.”
Margaret: “We had always wanted to make a neighborhood restaurant with uncompromising ingredients and lots of style.”
Lou: “Geoffrey and I were friends socially and were really looking for the perfect location for the upscale, yet comfortable ambience that we hoped to create at The National. Greenwich was the perfect location within which to make this a reality.”
3. This is the second location for The National brand, the first being in New York City. How is The National Greenwich different from its big city big sister?
Geoffrey: “It’s certainly a bit smaller, but the vision is the same. Just with more wood-grilled items and a slightly more rustic approach. But they’re siblings.”
4. What is the inspiration behind the design of the restaurant, cocktails, etc.?
Geoffrey: “Very specific design—a little bit of London at the bar and a little bit of France elsewhere wrapped in a patina of Greenwich.”
5. What role do you hope the restaurant fills within the town?
Margaret: “It’s like Cheers but for 06830! The amount of people dining that know other people dining or at the bar is off the charts. So fun, like a big party every night. One diner remarked when leaving, ‘It was like you organized a surprise party just for me!’ As a restaurant owner, what could be better than that?”
Lou: “I am hopeful that The National will become the go-to restaurant for the community. Everything from a Sunday brunch with the sun streaming through the windows; to a casual burger and fries lunch; to a plate of oysters, a fabulous steak—cooked on our wood-burning grill—and a fine bottle of burgundy for dinner.”
6. Do you have a favorite menu item?
Geoffrey: “Beef tartare and wood-roasted chicken.”
Lou: “I have two: the home-made pasta with sea urchin sauce, which is, sadly, temporarily, no longer on the menu, and the Cote De Boeuf for two, which is better than I have eaten anywhere in the world.”
Margaret: “I routinely eat through all the food items as I can’t quite seem to get enough, but my all-time favorite item on the menu is the Smokin’ Margarita. Is it bad that I feel like having one right now?”
7. What’s your “signature” dish when cooking at home?
Geoffrey: “Spaghetti with clams.”
Lou: “I very much enjoy cooking at home. I am Italian with grandparents from just south of Rome, so my signature dish is the Roman pasta L’Amatriciana.”
Margaret: “I try to cook at home with our family as much as I can, and breakfast is quite popular in our house. I make a mean French toast, but I love to cook from our newest cookbook, My Perfect Pantry. It has become a fun weekend activity—the kids flip open to a certain page and we just all gather around and make it together.”
376 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, (203) 861-6851; thenational-ct.com
Food and restaurant photographs by Nicole Franzen
Photo of Geoffrey Zakarian by Margaret Zakarian