Memorable moments with passionate professionals – #2: John’s passion for service is hotter than his Hell’s Kitchen plancha!
John Greco is one of those rare people you come across that lives and breathes both passion and professionalism. He built his career the old-fashioned way. He started in a simple kitchen. Next, he went on to an excellent culinary academy, weaselling his way into summer jobs in kitchens where he was often the only American. Upon completing his education, he travelled. Not for the sightseeing, but to learn more. He worked in kitchens around Europe before returning to the US. Then he got married and went on his honeymoon. That was over 20 years ago.
As soon as John and his wife returned from their honeymoon, they took an even bigger step and opened their own place in Greenwich Village, using their middle names, Philip and Marie, as inspiration for what they would call their restaurant. 20+ years later, it’s still there. They still own it and that’s where I was lucky enough to meet this incredible man.
It was our second to last night in New York when we stumbled upon the Philip Marie. A late September heatwave had filled the few tables on the sidewalk outside the restaurant with hungry diners when we arrived at 7:30. When we went in, the place was almost empty, but the servers were attentive and friendly. Just after our dinner arrived, the place started to fill up. New Yorkers obviously don’t eat as early as other Americans tend to… and before we left it was packed.
John came to our table, said welcome to “his place” and that he hoped we were enjoying ourselves. That’s a common routine in restaurants, but in many places, it’s almost as if the person asking is leaving again before you answer. Not John. He was genuinely interested to hear about our visit to New York. Before he left, he gave us his card and said if we wanted to try his other restaurant, the K*Rico, he would give us a bottle of wine on the house. “Don’t just do it for the free wine or for me, check out Tripadvisor, read the reviews and then decide.” We said that tomorrow would be our last day in the city. “If you come tomorrow, I will be there.” he said.
We had decided that visiting a good steakhouse before we left was something we wanted to do. K*Rico was a steakhouse. We were enticed by the offer of free wine, but we followed John’s orders and checked the reviews. They were excellent. We checked the location. It was near our hotel. We went online and booked.
Our experience from the time we arrived until Chef John walked us to the door two and a half hours later can only be described with a never-ending string of superlatives.
He was genuinely pleased to see us and introduced us to his brother who manages the front of house. He said he hands out cards all the time, but hardly anyone takes him up on the offer. They have no idea what they are missing. He personally showed us the steaks they had on offer and passionately described the differences between the cuts.
We were given an extremely tasty “amuse bouche” with succulent slices of steak on thin, toasted bread. Having seen the sizes of the steaks we decided to skip the starter in the hope of saving room for dessert.
Not so fast! A seafood and shrimp cocktail (“Ceviche Mixto”) and a chopped salad landed on our table. Thinking it was a mistake I said we hadn’t ordered them. At K*Rico they don’t make mistakes. The server just smiled and said Chef wanted us to try them.
The same thing happened when the main course arrived. We were given a couple of extra side orders, including Brussels sprouts that no doubt were a tasty tribute to our current hometown.
K*Rico is a South American style steakhouse, so how were the steaks, you ask? Indescribably wonderful. Chef John had some extra aged, bourbon rib-eye. We’re rib-eye fans. These were just so good that we had to invent a new superlative: they were absolutely, undeniably AWESOMELICIOUS! Chef personally also brought us a shot of bourbon to sip and make the best steak we had ever tasted even more memorable.
When the bill came, they charged us for what we ordered, not for what we received. That was on the house. We were two tourists from Brussels. The restaurant was packed with happy diners. The entire team of servers were truly professional. Chef John and his brother (another genuine gentleman) visited every table during the evening, but why they treated us like VIPs is still a mystery to us.
How does a guy that runs two restaurants in one of the world’s busiest, most competitive markets keep his passion going? I’m sure satisfying the appetites of many people every day helps, as do all the great reviews on Tripadvisor, OpenTable and elsewhere. Maybe he also keeps it going when he travels to seek new inspiration and ideas. Or maybe relaxing on the deck of a Hudson River harbour cruise, taking in the Manhattan skyline with a glass of wine in hand and the knowledge that he is looking at his city, with his restaurants and knowing that the millions of people there will potentially become his guests is key.
Whatever his secret his, Chef John Greco is one of a kind. Anyone that ever has the opportunity to visit New York, will be most fortunate if they happen by one of his restaurants when he is there. They will be even more fortunate when some of his passion rubs off on them, because I can guarantee that it will!
I just wanted to follow up and let you know we had a great evening on June 3. Oscar took great care of us, and the food was outstanding!
Thanks and look forward to visiting again next time we are in NYC. Geoff S.
Always Exceptional – You will never be disappointed when dining at Philip Marie. My wife and I have always enjoyed their weekend brunch with unlimited Bloody Mary’s or Mimosa’s, so we decided to try dinner there on Saturday night. The food was just as good, the service just as friendly and concerned, and the atmosphere as vibrant as for Sunday Brunch. I am looking forward to enjoying their Thursday night dinner which features 4 courses paired with wine. Your restaurant never disappoints–excellent food–exceptional service–keep up the great work!! Jeff L.
I just want to say thank you and the staff at Philip Marie for everything. The dinner was absolutely amazing. The room was beautiful and super romantic. I brought gifts for my wife by earlier in the day and the staff set them up perfectly as a little surprise. My wife loved it and had a great time. Every meal was delicious. The wine pairing was fantastic. Our waiter that night was the best waiter I have ever had. He was nice, helpful and all around awesome. I will and have already been recommending the private dining experience to everyone I know. We will definitely be making our way back to your amazing restaurant. So again from the bottom of my heart thank you for making our first wedding anniversary a special one. We will remember it forever! Cody M.
Just wanted to say a big thanks!! We had the most unbelievable time on Friday. You wait staff was amazing and the menu you set for us was perfection! Thank you, it was such a special day. Heidi P.
We could not have asked for a better location for our wedding lunch reception. Jim the manager worked with my partner and I and epically seeing that we live in Trinidad and Tobago planning this lunch from 4,000 miles away Jim made everything easy. Every guest complimented us on the food, atmosphere created with the low lighting, red and white roses on the tables and finally the food. Every dish was just fantastic. Finally the service was excellent, the staff ensured all glasses were full but never intrusive.
Phillip Marie will forever be in our hearts and memories and when ever we are in New York we plan to eat there every time. Paul and Errol
Philip Marie has the most AMAZING Salmon and Veggie Citrus Salad! I ordered it to take out and they gave me a huge portion with homemade dressing. I felt like I was eating in a 5 Star Restaurant (even though I ordered the meal to take home). They arranged my salad as if I were a food critic eating at the restaurant.
Thank you for the amazing dinner on Saturday. Everyone loved it and told me we have to come back. I thought the food was fantastic and I appreciate how much there was. The service was also the best I have had at any restaurant with the group I have been to in 6 months and my members ALL commented on how great our 2 servers were. Thanks again, we will be back again. Aaron L.
I just wanted to let you know how pleased I was with the dinner and service for our daughter’s graduation dinner party. I cannot tell you what a wonderful time we had. Norberto (I hope I am spelling his name correctly) was an absolute wonder!!! I have never had a server who was more accommodating, informative, knowledgeable and pleasant. As it turns out, this was not the first time Norberto served our family. We also had the pleasure of being served by him at our daughter’s 21st birthday party a year and a half ago. We were a party of eight and it was our first time at Philip Marie I remember how our guests commented not only on the food but on the wonderful service. I hope you will relay to him again just how grateful we were to have him share in this wonderful evening. Thank you again for your time and consideration in helping us celebrate our daughter and her accomplishments. I assure you, this will not be our last visit to Philip Marie. Eileen H.
Thank you for your assistance setting up our brunch this past Saturday. We had a great time, food was awesome and of course the mimosas were great as well. Think you definitely gained some new repeat customers. Looking forward to coming back soon. Thanks! Mike P.
My wife and I had dinner in the private wine room for the second time on Saturday. This time it was for our 1 year wedding anniversary. The first time was to celebrate 6 months together. The food was amazing, as usual. The chefs here really out do themselves. The lobster was cooked to perfection; the beef wellington was to die for, roasted oysters, butternut squash soup, the salad, and the chocolate fondue for dessert Um Um GOOD!!!! Our waiter, Berto was sooooo sweet and very knowledgeable about all the dishes and the wines that accompanied them. I have never been let down with Philip Marie Restaurant. You guys are awesome and we will continue to dine here, especially our milestones. Thank you, thank you, thank you xxx. Nicola R.
Sorry I’m responding so late after the fantastic experience we had at Philip Marie. Everyone raved about the food and it was indeed delish!! The atmosphere was fantastic and the Prosecco was the highlight of my evening!! Your staff was welcoming, knowledgeable and extremely accommodating! Thank you again for a wonderful experience!!!! Aimee B.
I have no complaints whatsoever. The evening was fantastic. The food was great; the wine selections were fantastic. My only complaint is that the evening had to end eventually. Andre C.
I just wanted to tell you that this was one of our most favorite experiences we have ever done. I surprised my husband; he had no idea! When we got there we waited at the bar. Then when (our waiter) came to us with the champagne, he knew something was up!! Going down those stairs and into the wine room. Wow. Just amazing. And the service and food were also amazing. (Our waiter) was so sweet going above and beyond to ensure such a special night for us. My in-laws have a special anniversary coming up and I was thinking maybe of doing this for them! Again, many thanks. We will certainly be back very soon. Rhonda B.
I wanted to personally thank you for all that you did to make mine and Anna’s night special. Everything went without a hitch and she was super surprised once the proposal happened. My compliment to the chef as the food was fantastic from start to finish, and Roberto was, in my opinion, the best waiter we have ever had! Once the night was coming to an end, the night manger and the entire staff were extremely accommodating, and made the second half of the night even that more special. Frank M.
We had a wonderful time at Philip Marie. The food was incredible and the experience was fantastic, thank you. I can’t wait to come back! My parents will be coming over soon from England and I will definitely be treating them to the same experience. Beth S.
It was amazing!! He was so surprised and loved every bit of the evening. The service and food were perfect. Thank you so much for making it so special!! Billie B.
The 70th birthday party we held at Philip Marie was one of the great events of my life. The focus of the event was the people gathering together and being able to do so in that particular space is what made the evening so special. For us, it wasn’t about the food as much as it was about being together. I never even asked my friends if they enjoyed their dinners because we were all so busy chatting and enjoying being together, everything else was secondary. That may not be what a restaurateur wants to hear, but it’s the truth. We felt welcomed, you gave us space and time to enjoy the evening and for that alone, you deserve an A+. Carol M.