John Meadow has been dreaming about high-end hospitality since he was introduced to the grandeur of The Plaza Hotel at just 6 years old. Today, the 33-year-old is co-founder and owner of LDV Hospitality, the hip restaurant group whose eateries are serving up upscale dining experiences with a side of vintage charm.
La Dolce Vita isn’t just the name of the business John Meadow co-founded—it’s the all-consuming philosophy that guides everything the restaurant owner does.
“Charm is the ultimate thread,” Meadow says, describing the seven restaurants comprising the LDV Hospitality empire, including the flagship Scarpetta (with celebrity chef Scott Conant); the homey yet luxe Lugo Caffe; the revisionist Tribeca steakhouse American Cut; and the Italo java joint Corso Coffee.
“Words like ‘charm’ and ‘hospitality’ can be hollow industry buzzwords unless you really buy into those concepts,” he adds. “We’re about creating a mom-and-pop feeling in the front of the house, and a structured, responsible business in the back. It starts with a dream, then we bring it to life.”
Meadow’s dream is rooted in early memories of Easter brunch at The Plaza Hotel with his family. “I remember being 6 years old, going into the grandeur of the Palm Court,” Meadow recalls. “It felt like the ideal, iconic dream of all that is New York City. It’s like the Roman Empire: Neighborhoods will come and go, but 1,000 years from now, The Plaza will still be there.”
In the Roman spirit, Meadow set out to conquer The Plaza early on: It’s where he was first employed after graduating from Cornell University’s prestigious hospitality management program—and what inspired him to strike out on his own.
“Working at The Plaza, I felt like a part of its history, but I wanted to create my own,” says Meadow, now 33. “Creating is my passion. You’ll see a classic sensibility in everything we do. We like adapting classics with reverence and respect, but also making them relevant to our modern existence. My grandfather was an architect, and he always said, ‘Be respectful of heritage, but adapt it for today.”
Meadow’s first solo effort, the Midtown bar and grill Local West, opened in 2004, proved a success, and allowed him to create his dream project: the retro-fabulous, Mad Men-esque Gin Lane—which turned out to be a spectacular failure. But, picking himself up by the bootstraps, Meadow transformed that location into the Italian stallion that is Scarpetta—and the rest is restaurant history.
Today, Scarpetta chef Conant and Iron Chef Marc Forgione of American Cut are just two of the big names partnering with Meadow on his restaurant concepts; he’s also working with New York nightlife legend Amy Sacco on two nightclubs—Miami’s Rec Room and NYC’s No. 8—and has partnered with Esca’s renowned Dave Pasternack for Barchetta, a seafood spot that’s become one of Manhattan’s most buzzed-about new eateries.
“The past 10 years, my favorite dining experience was eating crudo at the bar at Esca,” Meadow says, “and American Cut is a big brand investment that’s going to grow. But Barchetta is where I go out with my wife and kids on Sundays.”
“It all starts with wanting to own The Plaza Hotel when you’re a little kid,” he continues. “We’re building something that’s going to endure—but by creating unique, charming passion projects rather than scaling a brand.”