When Ken Lyon opened Lyon Frères et Compagnie in 1992, the chic, upscale café/market was a gastronomic oasis on an otherwise dry and dusty Lincoln Road. After closing the shop in 1997, Lyon formed the successful Lyon & Lyon catering company, and two weeks ago, he launched his new Italian café, Fratelli Lyon, at the Driade showroom in the Design District.
1. You're sourcing a lot of interesting ingredients. Tell us about a few.
We are getting legumes from Umbria, from a company that is making the most beautiful little white beans called fagioli la purgatorio — half the size of a cannellini bean. Their tiny brown lentils are the size of a pinhead. We're using dry artisinal pastas; we're making our own fresh pasta for ravioli, which we're filling with ricotta made in Pompano by this fantastic cheese maker, who also makes our mozzarella. We're using some really good olive oils for the table, and all of our proteins — chicken, beef, veal, lamb, pork — are coming from those suppliers that are concerned with sustainable farming. We're trying to stay off of the industrial grid. It's not 100 percent yet, but that's our goal.
2. These ingredients aren't cheap. How much can someone expect to pay for lunch and dinner?
We thought people would spend $18 for lunch, but they're spending a bit more. At night, people are spending in the mid-$40s to $50. That's what it's averaging out to now, but we've only been open for two weeks, so we don't really know.
3. What can you tell us about your wine list?
This restaurant is trying to be 100 percent Italian, to such a point where we don't even have champagne on the wine list. Altogether we have 50 or 60 wines, and I think one or two are over $100. A lot of them are available by 100-milliliter carafes or 250-milliliter quartinos. The great thing about the 100-milliliter is that you can taste several different wines; if you have three courses, you can have three wines.
4. Your nonalcoholic beverages are unique.
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We've installed a charcoal filtration system that gives us triple-filtered still and sparkling waters, which we use to make our own sodas. We make a Meyer lemon soda, a pomegranate soda, and a great Illy espresso soda. And of course we also serve Coke and Diet Coke — people would go into shell shock if we didn't have it.
5. What kind of music is played in the shop?
My wife, who has a great ear, is putting it together. It will be a collection of Italian scores, like of the great Federico Fellini's movies. Also some jazz, some cool Fifties Italian-American singers — it's not all Italian, but we're tying it together with an Italian theme. But it's background music, not a big feature. When there's not many people in the restaurant, the music is more recognizable; when it's crowded, it's the lovely din of a crowded restaurant that's music to my ears