Benny "Bello" Gocaj is bringing back the old-school warmth of the maitre'd to NYC. His modern take on a classic steakhouse, Greenwich Steakhouse, in the West Village brought chef Victor Chavez out of Smith & Wollensky retirement

coffee, beer, tea, pizza, wine
James Bosco

There was a time in NYC restaurant history that saw gentlemen running the door as the stars of the restaurant. Chefs were not as recognized as they are today. The face of the restaurant was the people who greeted you warmly while remembering your favorite table, or possibly, brought you some champagne unprompted. The famous NYC maitre'ds were the beating drum behind places like Le Cirque.  These hospitality giants are harder to find now, and customer service isn't always the top priority in restaurants around the city anymore. Benny is bringing this style of service back to the West Village.

Benny moved to the United States in 2000 from Albania which is when he found his first job in restaurants. He started as a busboy at Nino's, and quickly moved up to waiter after learning English within a year. By 2005, Benny found himself as GM of several Nino's locations in Manhattan. This position is where Benny crafted his old-world style of managing. He excels at making people feel important, and looked after.

In 2011 Benny left Nino's for the famous NYC steak institution Smith & Wollensky where he met chef Victor Chavez, and became friendly with him. Sometime after Victor's retirement, they had dinner, and realized that they both had a similar vision for what a modern steakhouse might look like. This is how Greenwich Steakhouse was born. 

You can see Benny most nights at the helm of his restaurant, greeting people with a smile, and, quite possibly, a hug. He takes notes about his guests drink preferences, how they like their steaks cooked, and where they like to sit. He has wine glasses with special customers names printed on them for when they come to dine. Benny makes me yearn for a time when everyone still dressed to the nines, and diners felt like big-shots when the maitre'd knew your name. 

wine, alcohol, red wine, liquor, white wine
James Bosco

In a time when NYC feels more trendy, and restaurants open by the hundreds every few months, I enjoy seeing effort being put into creating a guest experience that will see regulars continue to frequent the same establishment. 

Benny's story is truly a "started from the bottom, now we here" story. Immigrating from his country, Albania, to make a life of his own in the biggest city in America.