benny gocaj feature

New York’s Greenwich Steakhouse – A Q&A with Owner Benny Gocaj

***

When restauranteur Benny Gocaj first arrived in New York City in 2000 from Albania he began working as a bus boy at Nino’s restaurant. There Benny fell in love with the restaurant business and aspired to one day own and operate his own restaurant. Benny learned English as he quickly moved up the ladder and, by 2005, Benny was the general manager of several Nino’s locations in Manhattan. It was during this position he acquired his old-world style of managing, and becoming a full-service maître d’.

When Benny left Nino’s in 2011 his passion led him to the famous New York City steakhouse Smith & Wollensky where he met Chef Victor Chavez. They realized that they both shared a similar vision for a modern steakhouse experience. While collaborating, they caught wind of a vacant townhouse along Greenwich Avenue in the West Village and the pair saw it as the perfect spot to open their new dining hotspot. Greenwich Steakhouse was born.

***

Benny Gocaj (Photo Credit – Greenwich Steakhouse) COPYRIGHT CLEARED

***

1. When and how did you first realize that you wanted to work in the industry and business you are in?

I arrived in NYC in year 2000 and I worked at NINO’s restaurant as a busboy. That is when I fell in love with the restaurant business and made the decision that one day I would have my own restaurant. From that point on, I put towards my aspirations nothing but hard work and dedication.

***

2. What is a typical day like for you? And what do you like to do on a day off?

The first and most important part of my morning is waking up to have breakfast with my family. Then the headache starts (laughs), I start checking my emails and head to work!

My days off are spent enjoying family time, watching sports and always having a good steak–at Greenwich Steakhouse, of course!

***

greenwich steakhouse photo 1

***

3. What is the next big thing in your industry? What are people doing differently today, compared to 10-15 years ago?

Just like everything else, the restaurant business has changed a lot and continues to evolve rapidly. I started in the business at a time when there were no computers involved, and I can only imagine systems becoming more automated in the future to boost the client’s experience.

***

4. What are your three favorite restaurants in New York?

a. My favorite restaurant is Greenwich Steakhouse;

b. Nino’s Restaurant where I started at 1354 1st Avenue in New York City; and

c. Rao’s Restaurant, the old-fashioned ambiance is classic and consistent, which loyal diners have enjoyed for many years.

***

5. What are your three favorite bars in New York?

a. The Monkey Bar;

b. La Cava; and

c. Any rooftop bar.

***

6. What are your three favorite locations to visit in New York?

a. Central Park;

b. Museum of Modern Art; and

c. West Village.

***

greenwich steakhouse b

***

7. Which three events on your annual calendar will you will absolutely not miss?

At the top of my calendar are my family member’s birthdays and holidays. Family is very important to me and I do not see any event coming before them.

***

8. What was your best New York moment? Your worst?

My best moment in NYC was when I finally achieved my dream of opening my restaurant in February of 2017.

One of the worst days was 9/11 which was terrifying for everyone living in New York City and for those all over the country watching from their televisions.

***

9. Tell us something that people do not know about you. (And you cannot say it is a secret!)

I am a true romantic.

***

10. How would you describe your personal style? 

Simple and classic.

***

11. Who is your style icon? Where do you find your style inspiration?

A well-fitted Armani suit is a staple in my wardrobe.

*** Benny Gocaj (Photo Credit – Greenwich Steakhouse) COPYRIGHT CLEARED (2)

***

12. Who is your favorite Fashion Designer, Artist, or Architect – and why?

My favorite fashion designer is Giorgio Armani. I adore the artworks of Picasso and world-renowned architect, the late Madame Zaha Hadid.

***

13. Name your favorite… and tell us why:

a. Outfit: A well-tailored suit;

b. Perfume/Fragrance: Valentino;

c. Movie: La Vita E Bella (Life Is Beautiful);

d. TV show: Shark Tank; and

e. Book: The Castle by Ismail Kadare.

***

14. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What is it you love about it and what is your favorite dish?

Noma Restaurant by Chef Rene Redzepi. The Seafood Season menu is a celebration of Scandinavian seafood and features my favorite cuisines.

***

15. Name your favorite vacation spot and hotel? What makes these places so special?

My favorite vacation spot is Montenegro in Southeastern Europe. My family and I stay at Hotel Budva and we all enjoy the beautiful beaches, views and historical sites surrounding the hotel.

***

16. Which three items can you not live without?

a. My family is first and foremost in my life!

b. My house which provides a roof over our heads; and

c. My planner to successfully run my business and organize my life.

***

17. What song, meditation or mantra can you listen to on repeat? And why?

I listen to Italian music often, and my favorite artist is the legendary Frank Sinatra.

***

18. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like to meet? And why?

My favorite football player, Tom Brady. I have followed his career for a long time.

***

19. Is there anything else you would like to share, discuss or promote?

Host your holiday gatherings and exclusive events in the private rooms of Greenwich Steakhouse at 62 Greenwich Avenue, New York City, New York.

***

Steak (Photo Credit – Greenwich Steakhouse) COPYRIGHT CLEARED

***

Lead-In Image Courtesy of Greenwich Steakhouse and Benny Gocaj