On Roosevelt Island

Good News, Roosevelt Island: Trellis is Out / Nisi is In (Almost)

Updated 4 years ago Peter McCarthy
Nisi Entrance, Roosevelt Island
Nisi Entrance, Roosevelt Island
© David Stone for Roosevelt Island Daily

Two years ago, September, 2014, the diner many considered the gravitational center of Roosevelt Island, Trellis, closed for remodeling. Two hard years went by only to have us find that it will never reopen. Now, the good news: With the same owners, Nisi will open its door in the same location, a bit more upscale but just as Greek, as soon as the Razaghi family fights their way through a bureaucratic maze of permits.

The Island Is Coming

Few questions have been asked more frequently on Roosevelt Island than "When is Trellis going to reopen?"

People missed it as if it had some kind of special gravity or mystical meaning. Even people who didn't go there liked seeing it when walking past or red busing to the subway.

For David Kraut, the man I once declared "the smartest on Roosevelt Island," Trellis was home. If you wanted to talk with Kraut about anything, you knew where to find him.

When I wrote freelance for the Main Street WIRE, Trellis is where interview subjects wanted to meet. For much longer than I should have allowed, I sat chatting and taking notes with the late Patrick Stewart. His wit, charm and insight made me wish the interview could go on forever, allowing more room for anecdotes, including those for print and those I was sworn not to repeat.

Our waiter made it very easy by pouring endless coffee refills.

New arrivals discovered Trellis as a harbor for American things never to forget, a 50s style diner where everyone felt at home, especially if they appreciate a good bit of Hellenic cuisine on the menu.

And that might have been its secret. Trellis was so Roosevelt Island, containing itself almost unchanged year after year. You could always go back home.

So, What Is Nisi?

For months now, I've tried to answer that persistent question by walking past the soaped over windows of the modernistic structure that occupies Trellis's old home. I've been guilty of acting like a schoolboy, peaking in through any opening and staring into a mystery of work tools and beams when a worker once left the front door ajar.

But today, I got lucky. Just as I spotted a blue neon NISI sign, which proved impossible to photograph because of the summer glare, two men came out carrying a table.

"When are you going to open?"

"Good question," Alexander Razaghi, one of the owners, answered, walking backward, trying not to shatter the table. "Everyone wants to know. Really," he continued, "it's close to done but we have to wait for all the permits. They are really slow."

If you've ever tried to open a brick and mortar business in New York, you will sympathize. Or fall into depression over memories of dealing with the bureaucracy.

"Can I get a picture of the sign?"

"You can't go inside," Alexander objected.

"I'll just stand in the doorway and shoot, if you'll hold it open. I promise I won't go in."

Able to accommodate me after loading the glass table on a panel truck, Alexander patiently came over and held the door, and I stood on the threshold, taking the photo you find above.

What you can see from my picture is that there is still clean up to do. A bucket and wringer rest inside the door beneath a sparkling chandelier. When I was able to look around in the darkness, the place looked great, a nice big bar where I bet David Kraut will soon hold court on the right, and a delicious looking interior warmed by acres of clear glass.

What you can't see yet is the view with the windows cleared, but I can't imagine it as less than spectacular, a prime venue for people watching on Roosevelt Island.

And yes, Alexander's Dad, partner and local icon, Kaie, was there too, relaxing on the sidewalk, grinning happily, his place about to welcome Roosevelt Islanders again.

Oh, by the way, "Nisi" means island. The new social core for us will be an island oasis, open to all, at the center of the Island.

Watch for updates about opening day.




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