Return of the Supper Club

Weekly Newsletter
Issue #315

Return of the Supper Club

Over the summer in New York City, the most interesting stories of culinary experimentation were not found in Michelin Star restaurants or expensive gastro-pubs or farm-to-table speakeasies; but instead, within the private homes of chefs and up-and-coming restaurateurs hosting donation-based dinner parties. One of the best of these DIY-private-chef-cooking-from-the heart-feasts, was Restaurant. Hosted by Carina Geraci and Sarah Hombach, this pop-up series, located off the furthest reaches of the M train in a rickety post-war apartment building, boasted a decadent 4-course meal with 4 drink pairings for a suggested $50! At a time in the city where food costs were skyrocketing, and service was waning, this price point allowed culinary adventurers of diverse means to break bread and gorge themselves together like it was 2019. Quickly, news of this bounty spread, and what started as an intimate dinner party series, became a full-on supper club with a weeks-long wait list.

After trying many times to get a spot at one of Restaurant’s bimonthly seatings, I was lucky enough to snag a table for two on their very last service of the season. I walked into the mid-sized railroad apartment and was immediately greeted with a glass of champagne.

“Champagne for our last night,” Sarah said, handing me a glass and wearing an apron that depicted the torso of a ripped male swimwear model. The kitchen sat tucked away to the right of the entrance, while to the left was a snaking line of bedrooms, without furniture, aside from tables set with candles, flowers, and cruditès. The two hosts’ background in high end dining was evident in every detail: the simple chic glassware, the hand-crafted ceramic plates, and the all-matching silverware, which made my dinner-mate exclaim, “They really have their s#!t together!”

“I’m a little scared,” a man in a suit said to his date, as they sat down at a beautifully composed end table next to us.

“Be brave,” I thought, thinking back to Restaurant’s number one motto, “Come with an open stomach and an open mind.” For the next two hours we were treated to exceptional service, our glasses of wine being topped up whenever they dipped below halfway full, and four courses of delicious seasonal vegetables and proteins: beet pickled egg, a bib lettuce salad, croquettes, white fish, oven-fresh olive sourdough, amaro, and dessert. “This apartment deserves a Bib Gourmand,” I said to my dinner-mate. I felt warm and cared for in a way that I’d been missing from contemporary New York dining.


“Come with an open stomach and an open mind.”




I was so taken with my experience, that I decided I had to sit down with these two titans of rent-controlled dining, in order to fully understand how this labor of love became such a hit.

Carina and Sarah are a likely pair of friends and collaborators. Both service industry veterans with bubbly charming smiles, and a mutual love of all things pleasure. They seem at ease and playful with one another, even while busting out double seatings of a four-course meal. I would have assumed these two had known each other since high school, but in fact, their friendship started much more recently. “My roommate at the time matched with Carina on Tinder in 2021,” Sarah explained. “The next day he went into a job interview and Carina was the manager who was supposed to interview him. There wasn’t a romantic connection, but Carina did end up hiring him. I met her through him, and later, in early 2022, we became roommates, and fast friends.”

Both feeling conflicted about the restaurant industry– both its current lackluster state and the age-old issues of difficult customers, egomaniacal owners, and dysfunctional managers– Restaurant was born from both of them attempting to salvage the aspects of the profession that they treasure.

“We’ve both worked in restaurants for so long,” Sarah said. “There are so many things I love about it. I’ve always especially loved opportunities to set my own pace and vibe. I’ve always yearned to start my own place, and have put a lot of thought into how it would feel and what it would look like. I had a roommate move out, so I had a lot of extra space, and I happened to have a lot of tables. It was born out of that kismet. I wouldn’t have done it without Carina.”

“Sarah mentioned it at a dinner party, where we were celebrating her inaugural month of living alone,” Carina said. “She brought up the idea for Restaurant. The group started tossing around logistics. At the time I was managing a spot I hated. I was in a manager position, which took me away from curating an experience for guests, and made me focus on things I’m less interested in, like inventory. The chaos of the service industry can wear you down. In the last year of my service I felt left out in the cold. I was like, ‘I’m so over this industry.’  I knew I wanted to leave my current job, and it sounded like such an interesting project. One night, after a terrible shift at my job, we met for a drink, and I was like, ‘We have to do this.’ We talked over everything, and a week later we had our first dinner party.”


This project was the first time either of these two had private-cheffed in any sort of professional capacity; with backgrounds in cooking that mixed self-taught and mentorship styles of learning.

“My parents were both unenthusiastic bad cooks,” Sarah laughed. “Dinners were always pretty sad at my house; well done unsalted meat, bag-and-boil vegetables. At around 8-years-old, I revolted against that, and started watching the food network and experimenting. In the last three years, I started taking it more seriously.”

“As an adult, I’m mostly self-taught, as well,” Carina said. “As a kid I learned a bit from my dad, he was really interested in Italian cooking. My mom was a terrible cook, she would take a squeeze-bag full of nutrients if she could. After their divorce, cooking became the way my dad and I bonded and rebuilt our relationship. He taught me how to make fresh pasta. We had these big family dinners at his house on Sundays, and I’d do my part. I became super passionate when I moved to New York, reading recipes, watching YouTube, getting more precise.”

Working, on the service side, with serious chefs at critically acclaimed establishments, had shown these two how to approach food from a creative and conceptual perspective.

“Menu planning would start with a single dish or ingredient one of us was excited about,” Carina explained. “From there we would build four or five other dishes off of that as a prompt. Some of my favorite moments during Restaurant were just us on the phone or facetime, just workshopping things and discussing culinary ideas.”

“I loved working with the constraints of availability,” Sarah added. “It pushed me to learn new things and ended up creating more sophisticated complete menus.”


Carina provided an example of how their menu planning would evolve: “Our first menu, at its core, was a celebration of summer produce– corn, peppers, cherries. It was an ode to this bountiful time of year. We were doing two seatings for the first few events, and we took ourselves by surprise by the amount of work this was!”

“Duh!” I said, laughing. “What was the learning curve like, taking this conversation between friends at a bar into reality?

“Tell the rice story,” Carina said to Sarah, like a wife nudging her spouse to spin her favorite yarn.


“Tell the rice story,”


“When we were doing the appetizers we would tag team them,” Sarah began. “After they went out there would be a wave of relief before I’d remember we still had two more courses coming and then an entire other seating. With a normal dinner party, there’s one big push and then you can kind of enjoy it, but not in this case. Our first dinner, I was in charge of the entree. The appetizers went out and I felt relieved, until I realized that I hadn’t even started the rice. The fish was raw and unseasoned and still in its package in the fridge. I completely panicked.”

“I saw this look of terror in her eyes,” Carina said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Are you ok?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, I just had to look inside my heart and remember how to cook.’ We put our heads down and made it work, we got the entrees down as soon as the rice was ready.”


By the third dinner party, Restaurant had started attracting total strangers; including chefs, service industry professionals, and restaurant scenesters. “What was it like transitioning from serving friends and friends of friends, to people you had no personal connection to?” I asked.

‘When it started and it was our friends, it was a blast, but there were some obstacles,” Sarah said. “They weren’t as comfortable with me pouring water for them or doting on them the way a professional server would. Friends broke the fourth wall, but the strangers put it back up.”

“We loved serving people we didn’t know,” Carina added. “It was nice to delight strangers. There was something so exciting about it.”

“I’m not surprised strangers started coming,” I said. “Besides it being a fabulous experience with delicious food, it was such a crazy deal!”

“We really wanted it to be a deal,” Sarah said. “I’ve been so disappointed going out recently. I get dressed up and am excited to try something new, but then I get there and they just kind of shuffle everyone around. The food is meager and mediocre, the server vaguely hates you. You feel left out in the cold and then you get a $150 bill. I wanted this to be the antidote to that kind of dining experience.”

“I think COVID has changed the industry a lot,” Carina said. “We were focusing on this being an exceptional deal with exceptional service and exceptional wine— which is not a combination that really exists in New York restaurants right now. Our theme was always generosity.”


“Our theme was always generosity.”


“In making such a good deal, were you still able to turn a healthy profit?” I asked.

“It depended,” Carina said. “It was part of our learning curve. We went too far sometimes with being generous. Eventually we learned how to stretch things and turn budget ingredients into caviar. People were very generous tipping, which helped a lot.”



Thinking of how close these two seem, despite only knowing each other for about three years, I had to ask, “What did this project do for your friendship?”

“Of course, we are doing an intense and stressful thing together, there are going to be little squabbles,” Sarah said. “We are both comfy in the captain’s chair. All that being said, we had a great give and take. We learned how to collaborate together. Our strategies and approach were different, and we learned how to work together.”

“We’ve grown so much,” Carina said. “There’s a comfortability now. We’ve learned how to not take each other’s feedback personally. Our creative brains work to elevate each other. I learned so much from her and I grew so much from her.”

“I feel exactly the same,” said Sarah.

“I really miss planning the menu with you,” Carina said, with a misty pause that laid out their bromance for the whole world to see.



The original space for Restaurant is no longer available; however, these two are considering taking the project “on the move,” envisioning a future with changing locations, even more elegant menus, and a steadfast commitment to generosity and warmth.

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