This series aims to answer the age-old question, “how can I get into that restaurant?” There’s Resy, of course, but there are also the little-known tips, tricks, and shortcuts to gaining access to a coveted table. We go straight to the source—the hosts who hold the keys to the dining room—to find out. First up, Damien Good, the GM manning the gate at Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli’s highly sought-after American-Italian joint, Don Angie.
Resy: How many tables and seats are in Don Angie?
DG: We have 15 tables, total. And depending on how they’re configured, we can seat up to 48-50 people in the dining room, not including the bar.
Resy: When do reservations go online?
DG: We open the book 30 calendar days out at 9 am, on Resy.
Resy: It’s Friday night, around prime-time—8pm—and I don’t have a reservation, but I want to go to Don Angie. Is it possible and how long do you estimate the wait would be?
Damien Good: It’s possible to get in, we always keep 10 seats at the bar for walk-ins. On the weekends, the wait is generally pretty extensive by that time, though. We’re usually up to a couple of hours… hour and a half at least to two and a half hours. It just depends on how long you’re willing to wait or how early you’re willing to get here!
Resy: I assume people can wait at the bar and grab drinks?
DG: Yeah, but we do keep the bar for walk-ins, so you can come in, hang out, and grab a drink, but there generally isn’t anywhere to sit.
Resy: If I were to set some Notifies on Resy, which day of the week would I be most likely to nab a table?
DG: Earlier in the week, always. Sundays are usually pretty good; everyone comes in early. Usually 7:30, 8 o’clock reservations and onwards take a few minutes to re-book after they’re canceled. Mondays, same thing. Since it’s the first day back at work after the weekend, most people can’t make early reservations. So if you were to call up or walk-in early on one of those days, you’d be pretty much guaranteed a spot. Same as Tuesday, but Tuesday does tend to fill up from about 6 o’clock. And then the rest of the week is nuts.
Resy: What factors do you think have the greatest factor on availability—seasonality, a review, day of week?
DG: It’s really funny, I’ve worked in the West Village for 8 years of the 9 years that I’ve been in New York. And on really cold nights, people don’t come out early or late. Prime-time, 6:30 to 9:30, people still come out, but then after that we tend to get a lot of last-minute cancellations, a couple of no-shows here and there. So, weather is definitely a factor. We’ve pretty much been fully booked, 30 days out, since we opened. Also, during the holidays—when kids are on school vacation—it’s usually easier to get a walk-in spot. And when the weather is nice, we have 14 seats outside, so that brings the wait-list down.
Resy: If I were to show up at 5:30 pm. . . that’s when Don Angie opens, right?
DG: The bar opens at 5 and we start service at 5:30. So you could turn up at 5 and, depending on the night, you’d almost be guaranteed a spot.
Resy: What’s your recommended move while waiting for a table: what time would you come and where would you go to wait nearby?
DG: Everyone has their own restrictions and their own circumstances, which impacts how long they’re willing to wait. But, hour and a half to two hours would be my cap. We send people to Wallflower, which is just around the corner when we’re full, but they’re even smaller than us, so they tend to fill up pretty quickly as well. People like to go to Johnny’s Bar, just across the road. Knowing the neighborhood, I’d probably go to one of the other spots that I’ve worked at nearby (I worked at Anfora, L’Artusi, and Morandi, so I know all the guys there). If I had to wait, I’d go to one of those spots; all have really good wine lists.
Resy: How do VIPs at Don Angie become VIPs?
DG: It’s one of those things where we have a really limited number of seats, so we don’t distinguish VIPs. We’ve only been open for a year, as well. Oftentimes, people who come regularly know how the system works: they’ll sign up for the Notify list; they’ll come in early; if they live nearby maybe they’ll pop in on their way back from work, put their name down, go home, and then they’ll get a text message an hour and a half later, which is perfect for them. Obviously, you have to live locally, but that’s definitely a good trick.
Resy: Can you share a good story that’s gone down at the door?
DG: On any given night, especially on the weekends, we might have 1,300 people on the Notify list. And for a 50-seat restaurant, that’s a number that doesn’t really work so well, even on quiet nights. We get that it’s really frustrating, it’s frustrating for us as well. Say, for example, next Monday (pulls up Monday’s book in Resy’s table management system via the iPad in front of him), we still have over 200 people on the Notify list. There’s not really a lot of insight that I can give on what would make it easier to come have dinner with us. Other than, like I said, set a Notify, be flexible on the time you want to come in, and understand that probably 98% of the population wants to eat between 6:30 and 8:30. Flexibility and a little advance planning are the two biggest things [to keep in mind], I think.
Resy: Let’s say I finally get into Don Angie, and it’s my first time. What must I order?
DG: The short answer would be everything, because everything is awesome. But people love the garlic flatbread. The crysthanamum salad, which is our take on a Caesar salad, is served with lots and lots of cheese and dressing, and it’s really good. I think the most interesting thing on our list is the tonnato vittelo, which is a new take on a classic. We kind of flip it a bit. In the classic dish, you have cold, sliced veal with tuna mayonnaise and capers. Ours is a little different, because we use a spiced veal tartare for the base with celery (and celery leaf salad), for freshness, and Sardinian crispbread for a bit of crunch. . .topped off with tuna carpaccio. The caramelle is amazing. It’s a seasoned buffalo ricotta-filled pasta, which is in the shape of candy, served with pickled persimmons and opal basil. Also, the lasagna for two—if you’ve ever been on Instagram, there’s a million pictures of it— is actually delicious. It says for two, but it could easily fill three people.
Resy: Any other tips and tricks?
DG: Because we’re so small, we have to really honor the book and honor our waiting list. If I’ve got 20 names on my waiting list who’ve been waiting for an hour and a half, there’s no way to circumvent that hour and a half, you know what I mean? You can’t come in and expect other means to get a spot. It doesn’t work like that. We honor our waitlist and we honor the book, first and foremost.