Saint Theo’s in the West Village has only been open for five months, but it’s already one of the hardest tables to snag in the entire city.
New Yorkers are clearly drawn to its dishes, inspired by the Italian coastline and expertly executed by veteran chef Ashley Rath (The Grill, LaLou, Dirty French, Santina), as well as the scene set by restaurateurs Rob Goldman and Kyle Hotchkiss Carone. Carone also owns and runs American Bar located just down 10th Street.
Still haven’t been? Fret not — you’re in the right place.
Welcome back to The One Who Keeps The Book, a regular series that aims to answer all the most important of questions about how to get into a restaurant. The first answer is Resy, of course. But every restaurant manages its tables differently and there are always tips, tricks, and shortcuts to be discovered. So here, we go straight to the source to get them for you.
Over at Saint Theo’s, that person would be partner Kyle Hotchkiss Carone himself. Here, he divulges all the insider intel you need, including how to navigate that Notify List.
Resy: In a recent interview Bloomberg published with Resy co-founder Ben Leventhal, Saint Theo’s was name dropped as one of the hardest-to-book tables in the city. What did you think of that mention?
Carone: I thought it was very funny. I actually loved Ben’s answer, which was basically saying, “It’s probably because they’re just full.” Which is the case here.
I know some people might think there’s a conspiracy to keep people from getting tables to make a restaurant seem cool, but we’re not doing that. We’re a smaller restaurant and we have a limited number of seats. We’ve only got about 60 to 70 seats total, and we keep a big percentage of tables for our regulars — the people who have been very loyal to us and have kept us alive and in business during a crazy time. And that’s not being elitist; it’s just showing the same loyalty that they showed us back. Some tables do get gobbled up by our friends and family; and that’s something that’s been going on in the restaurant business forever. But we also hold tables for walk-ins.
So, when you really look at the room, at the end of the day, you’re working with 30% of the room that’s available to the rest of the world. And that can be frustrating for people that want to book a table. But you know, I’d also tell anyone to come walk in.
Another thing I don’t think people understand about restaurant reservations is that we also want to make sure everyone has a great experience. We don’t want to seat too many people all at once. And with staffing being tight, a lot of restaurants are just being conservative because they want customers to have a really great experience. It’s not about just cramming in as many people as you can, on any given night.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
Two weeks in advance at 10 a.m.
And how quickly do those tend to get booked out?
I’ve never been on the other side of it, but I do see on Resy that, within an hour, most of the reservations are gone. I know that people are going on Resy at 10 a.m. because that’s when I get emails from people telling me they couldn’t get a table when they logged on.
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How many seats do you keep open for walk-ins?
I think it’s probably 20%. We also have a full, massive bar. And honestly, that’s a great example of how people have gotten tables without going on Resy or having to use the Notify feature. You come in, you get a drink, and you eventually meet one of the three managers who are working the floor every night, like me or one of my partners or a bartender or the maître d’ and, of course, we will make it work for you. We always work with people to make it work.
Is the full menu offered at the bar, too?
Yes, we’ve got the full menu at the bar.
We also have a small little side room that we’re still sort of figuring out what we’re doing with, and we generally have it opened earlier in the evening from 5 to 7 p.m. Right now, we use it as a place where people can grab a drink after their meal or before their meal. But we’re currently developing out a whole identity for that room so it’ll be a place where you can try some of our cicchetti, or Venetian bar snacks. That’s another place where people can come.
We also don’t book our outdoor seating on Resy. We use that for people that have a preference to eat out there, so we can almost always take walk-ins out there if we’re able to. It’s totally doable.
How many covers do you have in any given night?
We have about 200 covers.
And how long is that Notify list, on average?
It’s pretty consistently over 1,500 to 2,000 per night.
If someone were to set a Notify for Saint Theo’s on Resy, is there a certain day of the week they’d be most likely to get a reservation?
So, we just decided to open Sundays. We used to be closed on Sundays, and it took us a while to be able to get to opening on Sundays just because of staffing. But now that we’re there, I’m sure that would be a day where you would have better luck.
Any other tips or tricks you have for getting a table?
So, the most important thing is to put your name on the Notify List and go on it at least a few days in advance. Because as you get closer to the date, people’s plans start shifting. A lot of people think that they have to log on to Resy at 10 a.m., two weeks in advance. But actually, I think the better way to do it is at four o’clock the night before you want to go. That’s when a text goes out that basically reconfirms the reservations for the next day. And I would say that we lose probably 15% of our reservations that way.
So, between 4 and 4:30 p.m. when people are getting those texts and canceling, you’re very likely to get an alert that a table has opened up. And then the next day at noon, a second text goes out, which basically says, “Hello, we still need your confirmation.” And at that point, we get probably another 10% of reservations that are canceled. So, we’re dropping like 25% of our reservations.
The beauty of Resy, for us, is that we can lose 25% of our reservations and fill it in with people that really want to come eat at our restaurant, in 15 minutes. That’s the point of the Notify List for us, and hopefully, that’s the point of the Notify List for customers, too.
So, get on Notify, and then be prepared to grab it when it opens up. So many people come off that Notify List. It actually is the best way to get a table.
Also, when we feel that we can take more tables, we will release those at the beginning of a shift, and that allows for more people to hopefully get in.
Any other suggestions or advice that you have?
So obviously, we’re not open as much as we would like to be and hopefully, we’ll add Monday, and lunch and brunch, because that adds more people in the door. There’s plenty more to come. Our overarching message is that we don’t want to be turning anyone away. It’s just a question of supply. If we can increase the supply, hopefully we can kind of meet that demand.
Of all the places to sit in the restaurant, what do you think is the best seat in the house?
Good question. I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure that out for such a long time, because people always say, “Give me the best table.” But it depends on what you want. Do you want to be in the middle of all the action? Do you want privacy? At Saint Theo’s we do have these huge, beautifully upholstered sofas that are so comfortable and they’re so great.
There’s also a really beautiful private dining room that we honestly don’t book a lot, so we’re just kind of sliding normal reservations in there. If you want something intimate, it’s a very cozy, comfortable room. It really doesn’t fit more than seven people.
What about you personally? If you were to eat at Saint Theo’s, where would you want to sit?
I am pretty sure I’ve never sat for a meal during service, except for a meal with my mom once. I always have to sit at the front, facing the dining room. If I have my back to anywhere, I have a panic attack because I can’t see what’s happening. So, I would say in the front looking in would be my preference, which honestly is great because it’s such a good people-watching room.
It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene for us at Saint Theo’s?
Well, it’s funny because we had this big bar that we built out and I wasn’t really sure how it was going to work. And there’s no divide between the bar and the dining room; they just sort of bleed together. So, by seven o’clock, you have a full bar. You have a pretty much full room because people are willing to come early, which is great. And the music is starting to turn up. The bar is totally alive. Maybe we’re getting a little backed up at the door, so that’s the moment I definitely start to panic [jokingly]. We’ve done round one, and we’re getting ready for the middle round. But it’s definitely a busy place to be.
What kind of music do you play?
I would call it Italo pop, or Italo disco. It’s definitely fun ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s music. I have no real science for how I do the music. But by the end, it goes totally into crazy Italian disco. It’s all over the place. And then I have the music that I want to hear at 11 o’clock when I’m done working, which could be Nigerian rap. If you’re still sitting there and 11:30, you’re probably thinking, “I just listened to four hours of Italian pop. Why are we now totally changing genres?” But it works.
I always love asking about the playlist at a restaurant because it’s so personal and such a big part of the whole dining experience that we sometimes take for granted or don’t notice.
It’s crazy because, at a normal restaurant, the music is on shuffle, or they change the music every day. At my restaurants, it’s just the same playlist every night. So, if you’re there at 9:30 in September and at 9:30 in December, you will be hearing the exact same song at that time. To the point that I’ll be behind the bar and the bartenders are singing, and then the song stops for two seconds, and they start singing the next song already because they know what’s next.
What would you say is the best time to visit Saint Theo’s?
I’m sort of a sucker for the later times. There are tables that we have for 10:30 sometimes and it’s so fun. We’re here all through the night, so the room stays busy until we close at one. So, you can go at 10:30 and stay until 12:30. And then you either go to bed, which is one great option — you had your whole night in one place. And you don’t have to get start getting ready until 9:30, which is also great. Or, you can go out after, which is another option. I always come late, just because you feel like the dust has settled a little bit and things are kind of calmer. But there’s also this alternate energy of, you know, people turning up in a way.
For someone going to Saint Theo’s for the first time, what should they order?
Let’s see, so there are the obvious ones, the things that I see on Instagram that people seem to love, so I have to acknowledge those: the mozzarella in carrozza, the ricotta pasta, and the romaine salad. But what I really want people to do is explore the cicchetti section of the menu, which is where we paid the most homage to Venice. You have things like baccalà mantecato (hand-creamed cod), sarde in saor (fried sardines), and all these truly traditional Venetian dishes. I always want people to be a little adventurous with their dining.
And on our fall menu, we have a chicken dish that we call butter chicken, not to be confused with Indian butter chicken. It’s inspired by this restaurant in Florence called Sostanza, and it’s basically chicken cooked in butter, which is amazing. The branzino has also been one of our biggest hits on the entree side.
But really, I want people to come and order a bunch of different things — and we did sort of design the menu that way. It’s not really like an appetizer, entree, dessert sort of place. Come with a few friends, order a bunch of things. Try everything. Get all the pastas. Get a good salad. Have a steak. That’s how I want people to enjoy the menu.
Do you have a personal favorite dish of yours?
It always changes because I eat the same thing for three weeks, and then I’m sick of it, so then I have to move on to the next thing. So right now, I’m eating the butter chicken pretty much every night. But before that I was eating the ricotta pasta. And before that I was eating tuna crudo because it was summer, so I was eating lighter. But yeah, now I’m in kind of feeling fall and homey, so give me a good chicken.
I noticed on the menu that it says, “no photos, please.” Are you discouraging diners from photographing their meals or to take photos while they dine?
I just think it’s better to experience the experience. I mean, not in the sort of way where everybody puts their phone in a bucket, and they don’t take it out until the end of dinner. But I’d rather you share your experience with people maybe verbally or by taking someone there than just by Instagramming or TikToking it, or whatever that may be.
But you know, obviously, it’s fine if someone wants to take a photo. I’m just sort of discouraging the bigger concept of the photo. It’s sort of a metaphorical “please no photos.” It’s not a literal “please no photos.”
So, no one’s getting their phones confiscated at Saint Theo’s.
Anything else you want to mention?
Honestly, we’re truly so thankful and grateful for the demand. Because there was a moment during COVID, when two of our restaurants were closed — Cafe Clover [permanently] and also American Bar — and I wasn’t even sure if Saint Theo’s was ever going to open and I thought I might have to file for bankruptcy. And to be at this point now, where we’re turning people away, and we’re trying so hard to get people in, and we’re able to open up on Sundays because we have such demand from all of these people that are back in New York, that’s a very sort of sweet — not to get too sappy — but it’s a very cool thing to have lived over the past two years. It’s going from a place of not knowing what was going to happen to New York City restaurants and not knowing what was going to happen to me or to my entire staff, to kind of being in this great position. It’s very humbling and very much appreciated.
Saint Theo’s is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 5 to 11 p.m.