The Two Boots Story

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Two Boots — named for the geographical shapes of Italy and Louisiana — was born in the East Village, at 37 Avenue A, on June 24th, 1987. Original partners Doris Kornish & Phil Hartman (indie filmmakers who loved Cajun food and culture – Phil having opened the Great Jones Café, a Cajun juke joint, in 1983), teamed up with local developer John Touhey, to create the original Two Boots Restaurant, a family-friendly, full-service restaurant specializing in Cajun-Italian cooking.The immediate success of Two Boots can be traced to a slew of small miracles: we inherited beautiful, indestructible terrazzo floors from the long-gone Red Lantern Restaurant; our vintage nail-head chairs were a last-minute find on The Bowery; our lovely pink and green tabletops were a black market score from a vintage formica dealer (thank you Suzanne of Second Hand Rose!). The Two Boots menus were graced with illustrations from the illustrious George Schneeman; our store managed by the amazing Lynn Loflin of Monroe, Louisiana; our pizza station manned by rock stars Santo Fazio and Kevin Karam; our bar and floor run by man-myth Kirby and brother Jesse Hartman, who’d go on to fame with Sammy and Laptop; and our core servers broke all kinds of restaurant records for durability and devotion — five years together as a group in a high-turnover industry! — thank you Emily Spray, Marilyn Gold, Darya Panesoff, Lisa Bowman, Mary Hebert and Jessica Gandolf. It definitely took this entire village to raise our restaurant.

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It soon became apparent that the original restaurant space couldn’t handle all the demand for our unique cornmeal crust pizza, so in 1989, Two Boots To Go, a slice and delivery branch opened across the street; this was soon followed by another full-service location, Two Boots Brooklyn, in Park Slope, under separate — and very successful — management by Mr. Touhey (and his partners Piper and Andy Wandzilak).

Pushing west, Two Boots To Go-Go opened at 74 Bleecker Street (near Broadway) in 1992, followed, in 1995, by Two Boots To Go West, at the corner of 7th Avenue & West 11th Street. Meanwhile, Two Boots operated on-site concessions in Central Park for Summerstage and began a long stint as the concessionaire for Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park.

Back in the East Village, Two Boots To Go moved to larger quarters in the fall of 1996, at Avenue A & East 3rd Street. This would soon grow to include Two Boots Video, specializing in independent and foreign films, the Den of Cin, a screening room/performance space/lounge, and later, in 2000, The Pioneer Theater, a 100 seat movie house for first-run alternative and art films.

Two Boots finally crossed 14th Street in 2000, opening a full-service restaurant with a full bar, in the newly-renovated Grand Central Station’s Lower Dining Concourse; a smaller outlet opened in Rockefeller Center in 2001.

Phil has been the sole owner since 2005, but Doris Kornish’s legacy at Two Boots lives on in the amazing collage counters which she created at the original Avenue A restaurant; the mosaics and frescos she commissioned from the great George Schneeman; the panoramic photo lamps she collaborated on with esteemed filmmaker Morris Engel; and her spirit of adventure and iconoclasm which is infused into the Two Boots DNA.

Recent years have seen a growth spurt for Two Boots: uptown stores in Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper West and Upper East Sides, a full-service, live music branch in Bridgeport, Ct., two locations in Los Angeles (Echo Park & Downtown), a pizzeria in Baltimore (at the juncture of the University of Baltimore and MICA), a full service restaurant in the Hudson Valley (near Bard College) and licensees/local partners in Jersey City, NJ; Nashville, Tenn.; Brooklyn, NY; and at Citi Field, with the Mets.

Two Boots continues to grow while striving to maintain its idiosyncratic style and commitment to the community, supporting over thirty arts organizations, plus countless schools and social service agencies. Acclaimed as the best slice of pizza in the best pizza town in the world, Two Boots has become, as Time Out New York, put it “not just a restaurant, but a genuine NYC institution.” We remain proud of our East Village roots, and proud to be bringing our unique Cajun-Italian cooking — and karma — to the rest of the world.

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