Exotically and appropriately named after the Spanish word for “Night Owl,” Cafe Noctambulo at Pangea – a dynamic new live music supper club, opened in June – brings to New York City’s East Village a taste of the cool, classic heyday of NYC nightlife in the 60’s and 70’s, when it seemed like there was a hip club on every corner where people could wander in and hear a wide variety of great music.
Occupying what was previously a popular party space at the back of Pangea, a casual Mediterranean-Italian restaurant and mainstay in the East Village with a colorful 30 year history in this location, Cafe Noctambulo is the vision of its Artistic Director Christopher Gines, who has spent more than two decades as a crooner of classic American Songbook and jazz standards and has toured the U.S. and internationally for many years.
“I wanted to create a special place that was affordable and fun and not pretentious and stuffy, a great spot to hang out with friends and enjoy sensational food and a wide array of music and entertainment by world class performers in a fun, relaxed and informal setting,” he says. “I had put on many parties in the room over the past year and saw great potential to develop it into a hip club that could help create a real Downtown vibe. It’s my first venture on the other side of the stage, and I couldn’t be more excited.”
With an eye towards fostering great musical versatility, Cafe Noctambulo has a newly built stage and a rebuilt and reconditioned 1960s era Baldwin Grand Piano (that Gines says they got “for a song”).
Cafe Noctambulo recently booked renowned baritone jazz singer and pianist Andy Bey as its first headliner, performing Fridays and Saturdays, September 12-13 and 19-20. As the club develops, Gines promises to invite a variety of jazz acts, pianists and vocalists – including regular revolving acts on weekend nights. He will also host jazz brunches and offer classical high tea events on weekends.
The cozy, 50-60 seat club’s still growing entertainment element currently features singer/pianist Eric Comstock every Tuesday night and will begin hosting renowned jazz singer Hilary Kole on Wednesday nights starting in September. Kole, who has performed in NYC everywhere from Birdland, The Blue Note, Iridium and Jazz at Lincoln Center, has recorded and/or performed with numerous icons, including Oscar Peterson, Michel Legrand, John Pizzarelli, Monty Alexander, Michael Feinstein and Dave Brubeck.
The special Noctambulo cuisine is fashioned and supervised by Teresa Barrenechea, a world renowned chef and menu consultant who has a long history with Pangea and is the world’s #1 go-to person for authentic Basque cuisine from Spain. She was among the first chefs to bring that authenticity to America with her first restaurant Marichu in Bronxville in 1991. An author of two books on Basque and Spanish cuisine, she and her husband opened their second Marichu restaurant in Manhattan in 1994.
Barrenechea is the recipient of the Premio Nacional de Gastronomia (National Prize of Gastronomy), the highest culinary award given by the Spanish Administration – a distinction also given to Noctambulo’s Food & Wine consultant Gerry Dawes. The club’s creative team includes Set Design Consultant Donald Eastman, an OBIE award winner who has worked extensively Off Broadway, and Lighting Consultant James F. Ingalls, whose vast history as a lighting designer includes work on Broadway, in London and at many regional theatres, including Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Opera, La Jolla Playhouse and Steppenwolf.
Aesthetically, the feel of Noctambulo is, according to Gines, “like you’re coming into someone’s very cool, hip downtown living room. There are candles and flowers, great lighting and great music, just like a dinner party at the home of a friend. There are tables and chairs on the main floor but along the walls there is banquette seating upholstered in a rich red and gold fabric. And we love our hardwood floors, which help create excellent acoustics. There are also two windows that look out into a courtyard with trees, and a little light from outside filters in, adding to the romantic setting.
“For me,” Gines adds, “Cafe Noctambulo is the realization of an idea I have wanted to do for a long time – and it’s a true joy to have the opportunity to give this kind of home to artists I enjoy while helping create a spot that people from all over the city and beyond can call home as well.” — Jonathan Widran