Ferdi NYC’s Aida and Fernando Scarpati: Q&A

At Ferdi in NYC’s West Village, they serve traditional Italian cuisine (Photo by Briana Balducci)

Sibling partners Aida and Fernando Scarpati know it takes something truly special to keep New Yorkers filling tables at a restaurant even months after its opening. At Ferdi in New York City’s West Village, they offer a wholesome approach to Italian food with a menu featuring their family recipes. 

Aida and Fernando grew up in the restaurant industry, as their family has been leaving their mark on restaurants across the city for nearly a century. Their grandfather, Ferdinando, nicknamed Ferdi, was born and raised on the Italian island of Ponza. He came to the US and opened Ferdi’s, a restaurant beloved by locals for decades on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, NYC. Their father, Guiseppe, continued in his father’s footsteps to later become the Executive Chef of The Rainbow Room, the famed restaurant at the top of 30 Rockefeller Center, and eventually open several of his own restaurants throughout the tri-state area.

Aida Fernando Scarpati Ferdi NYC
Fernando is the Executive Chef and Aida is the Front of House and Service Manager at Ferdi in NYC’s West Village (Photo by Briana Balducci)

Fernando has worked at top Italian restaurants throughout the world including Marea, Pallazzo Petrucci, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Naples, and A Casa di Assunta in Lazio, which has received the Slow Food Award from Alice Waters. He then returned to the US to work alongside his father and sister at their restaurant in Westport, CT, where he cooked for celebrities like Martha Stewart, Michael Bolton, and Frank Gifford. Aida, a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, grew up working in her father’s restaurants where she learned the art of Italian hospitality. She has also spent time on the team at Cote in the Flatiron district.

Where did you grow up? What was life like in a restaurant family for you?

Aida Scarpati: We grew up in Westchester, NY. Growing up in a restaurant family is a privilege because it teaches you responsibility and hard work. A family-run restaurant is truly a complete family affair. I remember as a teenager, having to go to work on the weekends, instead of hanging out with my friends, which was totally unfun at the time, but it sure did keep us out of a lot of trouble! 

What spurred your passion and love for food and cooking?

Fernando Scarpati: Growing up around my grandfather and father, I was exposed to beautiful Italian cuisine. The first time I traveled to Italy, and I tasted something other than the traditional Italian-American dishes, I fell in love with the flavors of Italy. 

AS: I am happiest at a farmers market. I spend my days off going to the market to discover new ingredients. My passion for natural foods comes from growing up in a family of chefs – anything in a processed package or jar was never allowed in our kitchen at home. And using a microwave to cook was taboo.

Walk us through your career tracks.

AS: Both of our careers are very young. We opened a restaurant in NYC at ages 27 and 31. However, we have both worked in restaurants in one facet or another since we were very young. Combined, we have about 28 years of experience working in food service. The future is very hard to predict, and I was never a fan to 5-year plans. My current career goal is to build a restaurant that our grandfather would have been proud of.

How did Ferdi come together?

FS: In the Summer of 2020, with COVID in full force, we, like everyone else, did not know what to do. My father decided it was time for him to retire, and we had to decide if opening our first restaurant on our own was possible during such a turbulent time. We searched and searched vacant restaurant spaces available for lease – nothing seemed doable, until one day we stumbled upon an abandoned commercial space. It took months to negotiate a lease, but we eventually decided it was time to pull the trigger and jump in. Our ambition told us, that despite COVID, we could not give up on who we truly were – restaurateurs. 

Why did you select the West Village? What makes Ferdi different from other restaurants in the area?

FS: For years we would always hang out in the West Village. We knew it was a poppin’ area for nightlife and dining out. The West Village is the perfect spot for a family-run Italian restaurant, because of the quaintness and history of the neighborhood.

AS: A customer recently told me, ‘Ferdi has a human touch that is rare in restaurants nowadays, and I think that phase describes exactly why it is different from other restaurants. We are owner-operators, which means we enjoy working alongside our staff every day and getting to know each of our guests. True hospitality means making your guests feel appreciated. 

What’s the atmosphere like at Ferdi?

AS: The atmosphere of Ferdi is cozy. The space feels warm and inviting – it’s not trendy, but it’s comfortable.

What’s your approach to the menu and bar?

FS: The menu was created from generations of dishes – many of these recipes have been handed down by own grandfather and father. We also wanted each dish to be able to stand on its own, therefore each dish has its own vegetable and starch accompaniment. 

AS: The wine list features unique varietals from esteemed Italian producers and the cocktail program focuses on crafting the perfect classic cocktail.

Lessons learned from prior jobs that you’ve brought to the culture at Ferdi?

AS: Most importantly, make your staff feel appreciated. Restaurant work is very exhausting, therefore, find ways to honor employees’ performance and make work fun. 

Share the plus and minus of running a family business, siblings, as business partners?

FS: The plus: Running a family business is all plus if you can get through the minus of working out the management and delegation. Working with family is more emotional, therefore, expectations from each other have to be clear, and you have to hold each other accountable. 

Are you experiencing any supply chain issues?

AS: Yes. The lead time to receive our stemware and dishware is about 2-3 months. Which is kind of crazy! 

Tell us about the local vendors you source for ingredients.

FS: We try to use in-season vegetables as much as possible, so we can source some ingredients from the Northeast. The rest of our produce comes from California and Florida. However, our dry goods are all imported from Italy – olive oil, some dried pasta from Gragnano Naples, vinegar, and tomatoes.

What’s your favorite piece of equipment that you couldn’t live without?

FS: Espresso machine. So much so that the espresso machine was the first piece of equipment installed at the restaurant – even while it was still under construction. 

AS: Kitchen aid. Baking is such a joy and relaxing.

What’s your greatest aspiration for Ferdi?

FS: To build a restaurant that fosters community. The greatest joy about owning a business is that you can find ways to give back to the community that supports you. 

Favorite career accomplishment?

AS: Although we are still early in our career, opening a restaurant as siblings in Manhattan at such an early stage in our careers would have only been possible if we stuck together as brother and sister. For us, that is our greatest accomplishment. It was so important to not give up on our family’s legacy of continuing the legacy of Scarpati chefs and restaurateurs.

Who were/are your mentors?

FS: I love to listen to everyone who has built a successful business, no matter the industry, because if you have what it takes to build a successful business then you have knowledge to impart to young entrepreneurs.

AS: My mentors are all the managers and owners who I have worked for in the past because they have taught me how to handle the challenges that arise day to day in the restaurant business. Also, many of my classmates and professors from Cornell continue to help guide me in my decision-making today. 

What do you see ahead for each of you and Ferdi?

AS: We look forward to making Ferdi a go-to neighborhood spot in the West Village. It is such a great community that we’re glad to be a part of. We look forward to continuing to share our delicious food and honor the legacy of our grandfather and his Italian roots.

To learn more about Ferdi NYC, visit their website

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