Anita Lo is the chef and owner of Annisa and one of the most respected chefs in the country having earned numerous accolades for her inventive Contemporary American cuisine. Lo opened Annisa in 2000, an intimate restaurant in Greenwich Village. In June 2009, a fire destroyed therestaurant entirely and while plans for rebuilding Annisa got underway, Lo appeared on Top Chef Masters and finished fourth out of 24 chefs. In April 2010, after a complete renovation, Annisa was reopened and then in October 2011, Lo released her first cookbook, Cooking Without Borders, which highlights her passion for bringing multicultural flavors to her American kitchen. 14 years later, Annisa continues to impress critics and members of the media, and even just recently received a glowing 3-star re-review from Pete Wells at The New York Times.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I was studying French Literature in college while I was learning to cook for myself. My college had a wing in Paris and I did a summer program there, fell in love with the city and had to go back so I enrolled in cooking school. After I graduated, I went to work at Bouley.
What are the most popular dishes/rolls at your restaurant and which are your personal favorites?
The foie gras soup dumplings and the sablefish sell very well and have been on the menu since the beginning. I stand behind everything I put on the menu, but usually the newer seasonal items are my favorites. Right now we have an arctic char with cholla buds, black olive and zaatar that my chef de cuisine, Mary Attea and I created together that I particularly like.
How do you stay successful within such a volatile and competitive industry?
One day, one battle at a time.
What is your life motto?
I really don’t have one. Right now I’m trying to enjoy life.
How important does the design / architecture of your restaurant play into its success?
Design is one of the most important aspects of a successful restaurant. It’s the initial impression, it sets the mood, and defines you.
How important is location in selecting the creation of a new restaurant?
Extremely. I can’t think of any aspect of a restaurant that isn’t important.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot, About Chinese Women by Julia Kristeva, and about 8 other books that have been there forever.
What advice would you give to an aspiring restaurateur?
Get as much experience as possible. Make sure you and your partner have a good working relationship and the same goals. Open someone else’s restaurant as a top manager before opening your own. Only do it if you absolutely have to.
Who is your role model - business and personal?
David and Karen Waltuck are like my restaurant parents. Chanterelle was a very big influence.
Describe a great night out and an ideal experience at your restaurant.
At Annisa? You are greeted by a warm and friendly host and seated at a comfortable, generously-spaced table. The atmosphere is relaxing and you can hear your guest easily. You eat something delicious that you’ve never had before, or never had prepared that way from either our a la carte menu, or tasting menu tailored to your specific tastes. You drink a great bottle of wine, or have expertly paired wines. Service is knowledgeable, friendly and flawless. You leave feeling good about yourself.
What is your go-to travel destination and why?
Anywhere I’ve never been. I like to learn new things.
What’s next for your restaurant and yourself?
More of the same. And I’m going to write another cookbook.
Annisa, a restaurant owned and operated by award-winning chef Anita Lo, offers first-class cuisine and service in an intimate, sophisticated setting. Located New York City, in the heart of Greenwich Village, the restaurant features Chef Lo's inventive contemporary American cuisine. By combining flavors inspired by her Asian roots, her travels, and the seasons with her classic French technique, Lo creates a persuasive and disarming menu. Annisa, which means "women" in Arabic, also features a wine list that celebrates women in wine, primarily offering selections produced by female vintners or vineyard owners.