Inching Toward an Opening

Re Trellis/Nisi: Cautiously, Some Promising News

David Stone
Old Mail Piles Up in Trellis/Nisi's Entrance, Then...
Old Mail Piles Up in Trellis/Nisi's Entrance, Then...
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Midweek, I checked out Trellis/Nisi again, as I have many times since summer when the Nisi sign began pulsing, flowers first graced empty tables and wine bottles waited on bright glass shelves. Disappointed, I found mail two week old reflecting sunlight just inside the door.

I challenged Hudson about their plans, now that Nisi seemed to be sinking. But then, something interesting happened.

Anyone holding onto a nostalgic longing for the return of Trellis, the once popular community gathering place, should probably let go of that vision. It's never going to happen. When Nisi opens, it'll be different, a giant step upscale, from homely diner to Kaie Razaghi's dream of fine Greek dining.

In nearly three years since Trellis closed for remodeling, Riverwalk Bar & Grill emerged as the goto place for residents looking for a casual retreat, a business lunch or dinner with friends. Many will not come back when Nisi opens. Some will head for the new wine bar on Main Street and some for the Mexican restaurant across the street.

Nisi faces more competition than Trellis ever did. Me, I love Greek food, and I'll be one of the first to enjoy Kaie and Alex Razaghi's fresh Hellenic cuisine.

Roosevelt Islanders, new and old, and visitors drawn from elsewhere may be enough to support years of enjoyment and much needed change on Main Street. Time will tell.

Trellis's Rocky Road On the Way to Nisi

Now that some cautiously promising news has, once again, energized Main Street optimists, it's worth a quick look back at what went wrong.

Responding to demands for an upgrade from Hudson, the real estate company charged with bringing new life to Roosevelt Island's commercial center, the Razaghi family drafted plans for a near total rebuild, discarding Trellis completely in favor of an upscale Greek restaurant, although that decision was not well known at the time.

The critical problem that led to years of delays and frustration cropped up early. Architects who designed the new space specified the removal of a wall that turned out to hold a main support for the structure above. Nobody noticed until a great deal of work had already been done.

Kaie and Alex Razaghi were stuck. Because Island House could not be allowed to collapse forward onto Good Shepherd Plaza, they were forced to plan, get approvals again and build largely from scratch.

Powered by a dream, determined to continue serving the community and supported by Hudson, they made the expensive and, as it turned out, unimaginably complicated decision to go forward.

You'd think Kaie and Alexander would have second thoughts by now, but you'd probably be wrong. When you catch up with them, as I did in August, and as Frank Farance reports that he did this week, the bright and congenial determination that has always characterized the family is as warm and confident as ever.

Right Now and Hopefully Soon

I challenged Alex Kaplan, who handles the Roosevelt Island project for Hudson, after reciting the long wait and series of false starts, "Can you explain for our readers why we should have confidence in this key location ever reopening as a restaurant?"

Over the top, sure, but Kaplan was not rattled.

"We too," she wrote, "are very much looking forward to the day that Nisi opens. Kaie and Alex have put a tremendous amount of resources into the renovation and I know they are looking forward to opening day, perhaps more than the rest of us combined."

Optimism gone haywire? Wishful thinking to the point of intoxication? Or just cover for the absence of any alternative plan?

None of the above, it appears, according to a comment by Frank Farance on the Roosevelt Islander blog. Farance lives above Trellis/Nisi and, being who he is, could not resist going downstairs when he heard the sounds of workers below. 

Inside Nisi, he found Kaie Razaghi supervising plumbers on the job in anticipation of opening, and of course, again, Frank being Frank, he took the opportunity to quiz him about it.

"They got their fire/etc. inspections," he wrote, "and then needed to turn the gas on. Well, there were two problems: first was their permit was old enough that they had to get a new permit and do some plumbing work, but the second was that the inspection rules changed since the Lower East Side building collapse, which was caused by the bogus gas work/plumbing and explosion. Since that event, all plumbing has to be inspected by the City/Con Ed, rather than in the past where the plumbers could self-inspect.

"He hopes this is the last obstacle," Farance noted, and added that Razaghi blew off rumors of his selling the restaurant as nonsense.

Later, I ran into Rick O'Conor, the respected and knowledgable editor and publisher of the Roosevelt Islander blog.

"Kaie told me that too," O'Conor said.

Come to think about it, I heard a similar version, back in August, myself.

So, is Nisi about to rise up from the legacy of Trellis any time soon? I think it is. The old mail has been collected, and to be fair, we all know Kaie and Alex Razaghi to be as forthright as they come. Regardless of recent history, they have always intended to do as they promised.

This time, I believe it's going to happen.

But I could be wrong. My eagerness for great Greek food just a five minute walk away may have infected me with excess optimism.

I'm hanging on to with happy anticipation until the future proves me wrong, if it ever does.

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