Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Beasts at This Cafe Even the Founder Is a B(ea)uti

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Beasts at This Cafe Even the Founder Is a B(ea)uti

Article excerpt

Claudia Schiffer, Elle Macpherson, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington aren't your average business partners. Nor would one expect to see these slender supermodels as part of a restaurant venture where apple-caramel pancakes and steak are the fare.

But Tommaso Buti, the 29-year-old founder of New York's Fashion Cafe theme restaurant, persuaded these raving beauties to forget the rice cakes and join his team. Now they - and their glamorous image - are reeling in the crowds while Buti manages the business from behind the scenes.

"The supermodel I see as the star of the '90s. I also think that theme restaurants are so much of the '90s," Buti said. "That's a combination and it works very well."

It's been six months since the Fashion Cafe opened its doors in Rockefeller Center, just blocks away from the internationally-known Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood theme restaurants. Like its competitors, crowds don't come to the Fashion Cafe for the superb cuisine, but instead are intrigued by its museum-like setting and near-celebrity experience.

Few eateries can claim to have a full display dedicated to a Prada outfit and matching pocketbook or the Giorgio Armani suit Jodie Foster wore to the Academy Awards. Perched high above the dining area is Madonna's bustier, an artifact that's nearly impossible to rival.

And while the supermodels may not actually be at the restaurant when patrons arrive, their aura - and the hope that they might show up - are there.

"Theme restaurants make eating like a fun event," said Bill Carlino, senior editor at the Nation's Restaurant News, a New York-based trade publication. "They may serve you very average nachos, but the display booth next to your table is exciting to be around."

Behind the cafe's sequined suit decor and sexy model portraits is Buti, a Generation Xer new to the restaurant world elite. Soft-spoken, yet confident, Buti smirks when he discusses his evolution from little-known caterer to prominent restaurateur. …

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