Cocktails and Conversation with Mario Carbone

The Co-Founder of Major Food Group, the internationally acclaimed hospitality company sits down and opens up over cocktails about the historic revival of a beloved Boston spot, The Street Bar, and offers insight on the rooftop restaurant, Contessa.

May 14, 2021

The Street Bar at The Newbury Boston

 

One of the most anticipated experiences at The Newbury Boston is on-site dining offered in partnership with Major Food Group (MFG). MFG, the internationally acclaimed hospitality company behind beloved favorites such as Carbone, The Grill and Sadelle's, currently operates more than 20 restaurants worldwide, including cities such as New York, Hong Kong and Las Vegas. Marking the company's first foray into  Boston, MFG operates The Newbury's rooftop restaurant, Contessa, as well as consulting on all food & beverage at the hotel including The Street Bar, personal dining, afternoon tea, and on-site catering for events. 

We sat down with MFG's Co-Founder Mario Carbone to discuss what guests can expect from the modern restoration of The Newbury's historic and famed Street Bar.


 

You have establishments in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and now Boston. What was it about this city that spoke to you, and inspired you to introduce an MFG experience here?

The hotel itself was the inspiration. We love projects that have great provenance and history. We are nostalgic by nature as a company, and take great pride in revitalization. We're doing everything possible to bring this landmark back to its days of glory through the on-site food & beverage scene. After all, this is the Old Ritz. 

Your team is responsible for one of the hotel's biggest historic revival moments, The Street Bar. Tell us more. 

The whole idea with The Street Bar is to revive one of the favorite spots in the neighborhood, officially name it "The Street Bar" and deliver an experience here that is the same, but better than ever. We are bringing folks back to the heyday of this iconic landmark, when it was one of the most preeminent hotels in America. Guests will be transported back to the 1920s through accuracy of details, and the menu will feature the very best in bar cuisine. Think: classic burgers, homemade fries, delicious lobster chowder, and a simple but decadent pot pie. The idea here is iconic northeastern American cuisine. 

What changes have you made to The Street Bar to update it for today's enjoyment?

Firstly, we reconfigured the seating so that now the space is full of comfortable lounge furniture, all soft and cozy. We then played with lighting to create a dim night time feel, removed the stage and instead have private seating moments with close access to the bar. The vibe we want guests to feel upon entering is warmth and accessibility. This was historically an old Harvard bar where you would bring your parents when they were in town, have a first date, drink amongst the professors, be in the midst of the Harvard/scholastic Ivy League crowd...we didn't want to take away from the heaviness of the history but rather add to it.

What elements did you look to preserve beyond the name itself?

Well, let's be honest here - there was never an official name for this space! It was just casually referred to as "the street bar." So, we went ahead and officially christened it. We found an old image of a bartender - a black and white picture - which we used to recreate the original bartender jackets with designer Barbara Bell. They are crimson and white colored as a nod to Harvard, and are naval-looking, short double-breasted with shoulder epaulettes.

What's the ideal way to enjoy The Street Bar? 

Whether you're a local popping in for a drink and a bite, a traveler looking for a lively but delicious meal, or a couple looking for a romantic and intimate break from traditional dining, you'll enjoy being here. We want everyone to feel like they can experience a great historical Boston bar over a drink and a light bite, in the afternoon or after dark. It's incredibly versatile, which is something I'm most proud of. 

Tell us about the inspirations behind the cocktails. 

All drinks are classics or very slight riffs on the classics. Let's be real, no one really wants you to be interpretive with the drink list at a historic bar. The most important elements are classics to choose from, the highest quality glassware, top-notch ingredients, beautiful mixers and high-end spirits. The goal here is to not get in the way. 

How are the Harvard and Yale drinks on the menu inspired by the streets and scenes of Boston?

The Harvard and The Yale are two classic cocktails from The Savoy Cocktail Book, which was published in 1930 just after the Ritz opened in 1927. These cocktails were certainly being ordered and served at the Ritz and celebrate the glamour of historical Boston. 

Before we let you go, we have to ask about Contessa. Is there any insider information you can share with us about what is to come from this spectacular rooftop restaurant in Boston ahead of its June 2021 opening?

The space is designed like a grand Italian trattoria with a glass roof and retractable panels for open-air dining. The views of the vibrant city skyline and The Boston Public Garden are the backdrop to this dining experience in the sky. It will be a place for new and spirited good times, filled with elegant cuisine, the perfect cocktail and stunning views of the city we love - the social hub that we miss right now. 

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