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Maestro of the Myriad

Restaurateur Drew Nieporent owns and operates a veritable dining empire and shows no signs of abdicating his throne.
Sam Gugino
From the Print Edition:
John F. Kennedy, Nov/Dec 98

(continued from page 2)

Perhaps experiences like that are why, despite his smiling visage, Nieporent chews his nails almost to the bone. "I'm a very oral person" is the excuse he gives. But there may be some truth to that because he also loves cigars--big cigars, like double coronas. Among his favorites are the Onyx 852 and the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona. When he travels to London, he indulges in a Partagas Lusitania. Besides pure pleasure, cigars serve another function for Nieporent. "I have a short attention span; cigars help me focus," he says.

It was Nieporent's well-known taste for cigars that brought him into contact with investors interested in opening a restaurant with a cigar theme. The result was City Wine & Cigar Co., the Tribeca eatery that debuted last year. On an early Thursday evening this March, Nieporent holds court in one corner of the restaurant, looking like a combination of Buddha and Fidel Castro. He lights up a prized cigar and generously offers one from his personal stash in the restaurant's walk-in humidor. Between puffs, he alternately answers two cell phones while greeting people as they enter the dining room.

"Uh-huh, 18-foot ceilings? Do we have street frontage? Wait a minute, I got another call."

"Headquarters. Yeah, Rockwell [David Rockwell, designer of Nobu and one of the top restaurant designers in the country] just called me from Milan on the other line."

"You still there, Rock?"

When Nieporent isn't on the phone, his staff is whispering in his ear or bringing him papers to look at or documents to sign. Myriad doesn't have offices, so Nieporent and staff use the restaurants for their administrative work.

Back on the phone, Nieporent is having a three-way conversation with his brother, Tracy, who handles marketing and promotion for Myriad, and partner Shapiro about a charity event.

"Eight appetizers for 500 people! That's 4,000 pieces. I don't care if it's meatballs, that's going to take a lot of time," he barks into the phone. "I'd rather cut them a check for $10,000 than put that kind of pressure on my staff."

Off the phone Nieporent says, "A lot of people are trying to get something for nothing. I hate when people try to take advantage of you. I don't care who they are, even my wife--well, maybe not her--I tell them they just can't do that."

Like many high-profile restaurateurs, Nieporent devotes a good deal of time to charities. He figures Myriad gets about 10 solicitations a day, enough to take up about a third of Tracy's time. The list is long, but some of Drew's favorites are Share Our Strength (a leading antihunger organization), Pediatric Aids, Meals-On-Wheels (his grandmother was a recipient of this meals-to-the-elderly program), City Harvest (which uses leftover food from restaurants to feed the homeless) and Jewish charities. The charity especially close to his heart is one funding research for Tourette's syndrome. His 10-year-old son, Andrew, is afflicted with the illness.


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