Like so many places across the country, the past several months have been challenging and unpredictable for our community. That’s why we wanted to do something special to spotlight the amazing people that make up our unique district.
Faces Of East Midtown is photo and interview series aimed at celebrating the humanity of our neighborhood and providing a real, raw and honest look at the faces behind the locally-owned businesses that have gone through unimaginable changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
October 14, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography
East Midtown Partnership: Tell us about your business or place of work. When did you originally open or start and what was your vision?
Alex Tubero: Amali has been open since 2011, I was fortunate to join the team this past June. Amali is a Mediterranean restaurant, which by definition is influenced by many cuisines and cultures -- but also a unique philosophy too. "Mediterranean" is a way of thinking about food, it's about seasonal produce and flavors coming together to create something spectacular. The food at Amali thrives on simplicity, meaning we get the best products possible and that allows the product to speak for itself. In order to get the best produce possible, you must be aware of the seasons and the seasons within the seasons. My philosophy with our menu is to let the farmers and the fishermen essentially write the menus, meaning they are telling me what the best product is for that week and it is my job to showcase them in the best way possible to our diners. Because we do not overcomplicate the dishes, the quality of ingredients must be perfect. There is no way to hide a subpar piece of produce. Every ingredient has to be cared for at the highest level throughout every dish.
EMP: Give us an overview of what things have been like for you and your staff during the Covid-19 lockdown.
AT: It has been extremely challenging to say the least. This has been not only an enormous interruption, but a completely unexpected one. All that I can really say is that it has brought everyone in the industry closer as we continue to support each other throughout these difficult times.
EMP: When did you reopen, and how did/does it feel to reopen your doors to the district?
AT: We reopened on September 30th. It was truly an emotional experience seeing everyone in the neighborhood excited for us to reopen. It's nice to know that people missed us and saw us as an important part of the community.
EMP: After being shuttered for months, several more businesses are slowly starting to reopen in the district. What does that mean to you?
AT: It is great to see the restaurant industry bouncing back--we're a strong and passionate bunch. I think things will only get better from here. My heart goes out to all the people who lost their businesses, but New York and New Yorkers are resilient and I know the city will recover in time.
EMP: What's one thing you've either learned, grown to appreciate or adjusted in your business practices moving forward as a result of the pandemic?
AT: What I missed more than anything was the people I work with. The laughs, the creativity, the hard work, the push to be and do better. A restaurant is more than a place that gives you food and wine; it is a family that comes in everyday to work and produce something special for guests to experience. It is more than just work for us it is what we love to do. I am so grateful for every opportunity to walk into the kitchen and cook. I'll never take that for granted.
EMP: What is your hope for the future of your industry in the city in the coming months?
AT: What I know is that we will come back stronger than before. Food will be better, service will be better, our whole industry will be better but we can't repeat the mistakes we have made in the past. I hope the industry reevaluates what is truly important in making a successful restaurant--it starts with a happy and healthy staff.
EMP: Any other thoughts you want people to know as they venture out into the neighborhood?
AT: When you come out to eat you are not just supporting a restaurant you are supporting the people and families that work for the restaurant. Think about how each bite of food you eat supports so many people and the combination of all the bites taken throughout the restaurant and throughout the day and the week will pay for many people's rents. Restaurants need your help right now.