Isa gets artsy
Brooklynites were delighted when Taavo Somer, the man behind Freemans and Peels, ventured across the river to open Isa in Williamsburg. It serves up locavore Italian in a style that one of Adam Platt’s dining partners described as “highly refined lumberjack food.” The latest addition to the already homey enterprise is an upstairs farmhouse-style studio that on Saturday mornings hosts BrunchCRAFT, the restaurant’s new series of events for kids. In other words, while parents linger over food and drinks, their kids can get creative, and not just by coloring on paper menus. So far, kids have made collages, planted plants, and decorated pumpkins. Next up? A found object instrument workshop with the Spanish immersion music program ¡Acopladitos! (November 17th, from 12-3). We’re all for melodious mornings, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Johnny Misheff, the events director at Friends and Family, Somer’s creative agency that represents all of his restaurants, has a few things to add. —Kate Guadagnino
How did the space come to be and what are your goals for it?
ISA's awesome owner/designer Taavo Somer had the crazy idea not to utilize the fully functional second floor space in the traditional sense, i.e. for dining. Well, the space is actually used for dining most nights—and for private parties, that sort of thing—but the idea was to turn it into a constantly rotating and wildly fun community center of sorts.
Saturday brunches are for the kids, and the idea is to let their creative juices flow on the second floor while moms and dads enjoy yummy sourdough pancakes downstairs. We've got regular programming from the likes of Denise Porcaro of FlowerChild (http://www.flowergirlnyc.com/), who gets the kids’ green thumbs into shape by teaching them how to plant a petunia. Artist Caris Reid is our collage party maestro. She brings in the most exquisite materials for the kids to implement in what I can only describe as masterpieces! It's intense how talented these kids are.
On Wednesday evenings we have a monthly lecture series featuring a wide range of experts—think creative exercise classes, standup comedy performances, movie screenings, and dance parties. This Wednesday, November 14, we’re showing The Three Stages of Murgatroyd, a musical in three acts performed by the Mad Robin theater group, paired with a three-course dinner. On December 12th, we’ll have speakers from four incredible independent NYC bookstores—The Strand, Book Court in Boerum Hill, Word in Williamsburg, and Soho's McNally Jackson—talk about the inner workings of their establishments.
This Thanksgiving, we're hosting an intimate atmosphere of spiked hot beverages, setting up a craft table where you can make your own miniature geodesic domes, and of course, we'll be airing pro football. The space is truly magical. It's providing an atmosphere for young artists and performers to hone their crafts and have the fruits of their labor enjoyed by a hungry audience. The town is desperate for these activities, and we're psyched to provide something fun and different.
What are your thoughts on family-friendly restaurants in New York and beyond?
I love them. Truly. For our "adult-oriented" Wednesday night activities to flourish, I strongly believe the energy that the kids leave behind on Saturday afternoons, after they've poured their hearts and souls into the crafty project of the day, is essential. It greatly affects the general vibe of the whole space. The whole space. Their presence is incredibly valuable in that way. Restaurants that don't cater to kids can tend to have colder atmospheres. Not in every case, mind you, but I'm talking about places that actually come off as anti-kids. You know what I'm talking about.
Photos by D.J. Clark.