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Eye on Design with Brooks Reitz

The Charleston, South Carolina–based restaurateur, Brooks Reitz, behind some of the city’s top restaurants, including Leon’s and Little Jack’s Tavern, weighs in on his newest hotspot, Melfi’s—and why our Chiltern Double and Pendeen pendants made all the difference in its design. 

Describe Melfi’s in 5 words or less.

Classic, clubby Italian joint.

How does the aesthetic connect with the food?

They are both elegant, straightforward and low on unnecessary frills. This is definitely the cleanest, sleekest room we’ve done. The food is the same—and both come from more confidence in our skills and abilities.

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If you could invite anyone, living or dead, to eat at Melfi’s, who would it be and why?

The proprietor of my favorite restaurant in Rome, Almoro. He is this tall, elegant and sophisticated Italian man—one of the most dashing people I’ve ever met and his food and restaurant are so good and I’d want to thank him for the inspiration.

Besides this restaurant, what is your all-time favorite place to eat?

My favorite places are quiet and elegant—but not stuffy—serving lunch with sun streaming through the window. The service is approachable, but not intrusive.

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What design elements do you view as most fundamental to hospitality?

Lighting, hands down. It makes everyone look and feel better—two things that are absolutely fundamental to hospitality.

If you could eat one thing from Melfi’s for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Vitello Tonnato (veal served cold with tuna sauce). It’s rich and light at the same time.

If you could take one element from the design of Melfi’s and use it in your house, what would it be?

I would really love to take one of the Chiltern Double pendants hanging up in our dining room and put it in my house in my dining room.

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Complete this sentence: If I weren’t a restaurateur, I would be a ______.

Hotelier.

Better restaurant keepsake: matchbook, coaster or cocktail napkin?

Matchbook, all day long.

Most memorable night you’ve had at Melfi’s so far? Or moment you knew it was going to be a hit? Most gratifying moment?

My first night off, when I sat at the bar with my wife, Erin, had a tiny beer and a bunch of small plates. The food was incredible, and I just felt like the room looked incredible when I sat down for the first time as a customer.