NEW YORK – Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani will finally bring his artisanal pita and roasted cauliflower dishes to the Big Apple this fall.
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He will open the sixth branch of his pita restaurant Miznon in Chelsea Market, the upscale tourist attraction near the trendy Meatpacking District.
The restaurant is expected to open in October or November and will be the largest branch of Shani’s expanding empire. He currently has three branches in Israel, one in Paris and another in Vienna, with another set to open in Australia soon.
The Manhattan eatery will have space for 150 diners and, like his other branches, will serve alcohol in the evenings.
Shani has teamed up with Israeli entrepreneur Moshe Ziv on the new branch. The U.S.-based Ziv heads a group of investors, but prefers to keep a low media profile. He owns a farm in northern New York state and produces a number of products at his dairies, including butter, yogurt and ice cream. His most famous product is Ronnybrook Yogurt, which is sold in New York City, including in many restaurants.
Ziv already operates in Chelsea Market and plans to expand his business footprint there.
Along with another business partner, Ziv is also behind the opening of Miznon’s Australian branch, which is scheduled for a mid-August launch in Melbourne.
The Australian branch is particularly interesting, say knowledgeable sources, because it is also supposed to be big and plush. It is rumored to boast four floors and will include a bar, restaurant and space for holding private events.
In a conversation with Haaretz, Ziv tried to give most of the credit to Shani’s longtime partner Shahar Segal, who he called “the director” of the entire venture.
“I’m giving them the space, but what Eyal Shani and Shahar [Segal] are doing is not just food but theater,” said Ziv. “So I’m giving them the keys to do what they know how to do.”
A team of chefs and managers from Israel, including Shani himself, will arrive in New York to prepare for the fall opening.
The average price for a pita meal is expected to be around $15.
Chelsea Market, an enclosed urban food court, has become one of the biggest attractions for both tourists and locals in the past decade, both because of its unique atmosphere and its proximity to the super-popular Meatpacking District. Google’s offices are located nearby, while the offices and studios of YouTube are situated on the top floors of the market building.
The market averages some 35,000 visitors per day, which is more than the Empire State Building. That can sometimes makes it overcrowded and difficult to move around, but the owners are planning a major expansion of the market in the near future.
Miznon expects to attract large numbers of tourists and young people who work in the area – not just at Google and YouTube, but also from the music industry. But they are also banking on Israelis living in New York who already know what Shani has to offer.
Shani, Segal and Ziv are already eyeing other New York sites beyond Chelsea. They plan to open a second Manhattan branch on the Upper West Side next June. They also say that if the first U.S. branches are a success, they will expand elsewhere in New York and around the United States.
It will be fascinating to see how Shani’s gourmet pita and cauliflower dishes will fare.
The first branch of Miznon was opened on Tel Aviv’s central Ibn Gabirol Street in January 2011. At the time, the eatery was considered an unusual addition to the local street-food scene, since Shani served “gourmet pitas” that were not particularly cheap and contained fillings that deviated from those normally used by fast-food outlets.
Nowadays, Shani is probably best known in Israel for his antics as a judge on the “Master Chef” reality cooking show.
After the Ibn Gabirol success, the partners added another two branches in Tel Aviv (on King George Street and in Ramat Hahayal), and took everyone by surprise when, in 2014, they opened a fourth, kosher branch in the Le Marais neighborhood of Paris. The latter has been very successful and attracts a clientele far beyond Israelis looking for something that reminds them of home.
In late 2015, Shani opened his second European venture, this time in Vienna. He already declared then that New York was also on his agenda.