WHY GEORGE BRESCIA LIVES ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE

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By Eileen Katz

Fresh off red carpet coverage of this year’s Oscars, Upper West Sider and stylist to stars from Hollywood to Broadway, George Brescia, shares with us why this neighborhood inspires him like no other.  His book, “Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life Because You Can’t Go Naked”, is an insider’s guide to how each of us can define and actually obtain our own personal style.

Why the West side, George?

Wow!  Ok.  I started working for Ralph Lauren in Connecticut, where I’m originally from, and then found myself working at different stores until I finally got a larger position in charge of Merchandising and Product Knowledge which allowed me to move back to New York. And I have been back and forth on the Upper West Side ever since.  I was at the Ansonia for a while and then moved up to 96th St in a brownstone and then I started working for Tommy Hilfiger and moved down to the village.

Uh oh.

I know, not what you want to hear. But then I came back!  You see, I was in a couple of different places in the Village, and the building I was in last got sold.  A friend of mine worked for this company that owned a couple of buildings up here and I saw this apartment on 105th Street, which was a huge move, but honestly, being up here now, I know it was the right move.  It’s got such a neighborhood feel, so many privately-owned businesses still and the restaurants are quite good. I knew it was fate or a sign from God, when my favorite restaurant, Mezzogiorno, which was down in Soho on the corner of Spring and Sullivan, moved up to 108th & Broadway! How bizarre is that?! And we know the owners so well, we eat there at least once a week. Fate, I tell you!

But what is it about this neighborhood you think, that keeps you coming back?

There’s just so much about the Upper West Side that kind of fits what I do and my lifestyle more than any other place in the city because I dress a lot of the Broadway community and so many of them live up here. And then I have found stores and restaurants that I work with for my clients up here that have become real resources. I find it all kind of inspiring.

I have to ask this.  You are a premiere stylist with impeccable credentials from Hollywood and Broadway.  Could you describe the overall style of a typical Upper West Sider? Is there such a thing?

Let me start with that I think the Upper West Side has lots of families, not more than other neighborhoods, but it feels like they’re more concentrated here than in other parts of the city, so I think the style and fashion you see on the Upper West Side, is a little, to me, more casual and relaxed than other parts of the city. And I think depending on what part of the Upper West Side you’re in, it gets kind of casual. You know, moms running around in their yoga pants with winter ski parkas and their boots or sneakers, whatever it is, and just casual jeans and jackets. But if you go down towards Lincoln Center it gets a little bit chicer because maybe these people are going to see something at the theater or eat at one of the nice restaurants there. I will say that Columbus Avenue from between 72nd and 63rd, you know, on a Saturday can be kind of chic and fun.  And as we are getting in to the Spring, people are sitting outside and bring a little extra fashion to the streets.  Columbus Avenue is really where you feel that more than Broadway or Amsterdam.

And one other quick fashion question: Will we ever see you walking around the neighborhood in just sweatpants and a hoodie?

First of all, do you even know who you’re talking to? Of course! In my book, “Change Your Clothes Change Your Life”, I talk about the secret language of clothing so I have to set an example because of all my clients. So yeah, I do sweatpants, but they’re the cute fitting sweatpants and if I’m doing like a hoodie, it’s the red one that I look cute in underneath my little black down jacket. So that’s a definite yes, but it’s a little studied! You see, it’s one of the ways I express myself, so for me, it’s not a big deal to do.  I don’t feel like I’m overthinking it because it just makes me feel good. And I’ve been able to show my clients how to do it too. Even clients who aren’t celebrities. And I’ve written about it so everyone can feel better about themselves and walk in to a room or a party with self confidence they never had before. And that’s so important. It’s why I love what I do. That may be by teaching someone how to find the perfect “10” outfit they may get an extra boost of confidence or self-esteem to help them through something.  And you can do it any price point.

So now that you’re back to the Upper West Side where you belong, tell me some of your favorite places to go. That is, when you’re not at Mezzogiorno.

I do love Henry’s and I do love The Silver Moon Bakery and The Meatball Shop. There are also a number of stores that I take clients to.  One very inexpensive store on Amsterdam called Purdy Girl I always do well in. On Columbus there’s Intermix and Club Monaco and I personally love the Keihl’s store and I LIVE for The Fresh store.  I love all of their products. There’s also an Italian restaurant on the corner of 68th, Il Violino.  I love that place. Amazing.  There’s Absolute Bagels which has the best breakfast sandwich bagels. Ever. We love Community. And Café Du Soleil.  The steak Frites there is insane. The Candle Café we love, The Garden of Eden for shopping. Oh and Café Luxembourg.  Breakfast at The Smith?  Can’t even talk about it, it’s so good. And Levain!!!  Those cookies.  Lord.

Are you a park person, George?  Riverside or Central for you?

I love to walk in the park up here. I love just going in to Riverside Park right on 105th Street. Just walk right down in to it.  It’s so beautiful and the people are friendly.  It’s very relaxing for me.

What do you find unique about people in this neighborhood versus other places you’ve lived?

I feel like people talk to each other here.  On the street corners, in the cafes, where in other parts of the city, in my experience, they really don’t.  Even in my building people really like talking to each other.  Just chat in the lobby at night as they’re going to get the mail.  And I like that too.  And I also like, for me, that it doesn’t feel very fashion driven. There are definitely people who work in the industry that are up here and there’s a lot of famous people, but it’s more low key.  I think it just feels like quintessential New York City.

You think about a brownstone, a family owned café, a special bakery or privately owned boutique where you can buy something you can’t find in a chain store, you can still have those New York moments here on the Upper West Side and I kind of cherish those moments. Especially certain times of the year.  Like in the Fall, for instance, if just feels so “New York” to me up here…whatever those quotes mean!  You know, you bundle up in a big scarf and a little jacket and you go to brunch and it’s just something unique to New York.

But back to the people…it’s so different from the Upper East Side!  There’s only a park between us, and there’s the obvious reason, but I’ll tell you this, there are people up here who are just as wealthy as those on the Upper East Side, but they don’t have that intense, crazy competitive….let me just say it a different way…people on the Upper West Side seem to me, to just be warmer. It’s a lifestyle choice. And it’s such a great mix of people. I’ve mentioned the Broadway folks, but then there’s people in finance, the families, all walks of life and they’re all just so mellow about it.

Tell me something that you consider unique to just the Upper West Side.

Well let’s start with one of the original Upper West Side success stories, Equinox.  Started by the Errico family, 5 brothers and sisters, right here on the Upper West Side in 1991 on Amsterdam and 76th.  Then they opened up many different ones all over the city and now they’re all gazillionaires, but that was a big deal when that opened up up here and I joined and went all the time and knew them all very well.  And now that I’m back up here, I joined the one on 92nd St and I love it.  But this story gets even better, if you want unique.  So I take this exercise class every Sunday there and, you know, people get to talking and I meet this one girl who’s a lawyer, but she loves to cook as a hobby and she makes the most insane chia seed muffins.  And if you order them, she’ll drop them off to you every Friday.  Where else in the city are you finding that?!

Time for the Zabar’s Challenge! If you’re stuck on a desert island and could only have one thing from there, what would it be?

What? Only one thing?  It would have to be the bagels, right? No. Maybe the rugelach?  Yeah.  Cinnamon rugelach for sure.

When they declare “George Brescia Day” on the Upper West Side, how would you like people to celebrate?

We’re celebrating “George Brescia Day”? I think it’s some sort of Italian Street fair with the best Italian foods and home made pastas and breads, delicious homemade meatballs and mozzarella, great music and dancing in the streets. And then with that, an open market with some specialty items like anything cashmere.  Beautiful cashmere accessories like sweaters and scarves and some great shoes…just the best of the best!  A food and fashion moment!

To read all of our “Why the West Side” columns, click here.

COLUMNS | 16 comments | permalink
    1. UWS_lifer says:

      This guy is great. That is all.:)

    2. joelle Soona says:

      Such a sweet man!!! And clearly has impeccable taste as he lives up here with us~

    3. jerry says:

      I remember George when he was a captain at the legendary 4 Seasons restaurant. Always affable, entertaining and professional to a fault. A great host for what was at the time the city’s finest restaurant.

    4. wombatNYC says:

      Never where white after labour day and I thought you should never wear Denim and Denim combo’s . But it works. I’m going back to my closet and making my own denim statement this weekend.
      Thanks George !

      • UWS_lifer says:

        That’s funny. When I was a kid they called a jean jacket with jeans a “Canadian Tuxedo”.

        In the politically correct environment of today I wonder if that would be deemed to offensive or mean.

        By the way, I love Canada and all its citizens (and hockey), it was just a silly joke from a long time ago. Even comedy was better back in the old days.:)

      • wombatNYC says:

        Wear

    5. WSR Fan says:

      Fantastic! Why the West Side? People like George (and the author)!!!

    6. Izzy says:

      Hands down my favorite column on WSR. I always learn about a new restaurant or store! Love it!

    7. Great article! Thanks George!!
      Another FAVE go to UWS store is MAGPIE on Amsterdam 84/83rd.
      BEST gift store, many artists, fair trade, everything BEAUTIFUL & full of love!!
      Let’s support our local UWS small businesses!! 🙂

      • Steve Rubenstein says:

        This article, and the responses to it make me proud to live on the UWS, although I already was proud of it.
        Can’t wait to try Mezzogiorno.

      • bystander says:

        Agreed. Always find great greeting cards there, and always fun to browse there for gifts.

    8. Leesa says:

      I love this interview!!

    9. Uwsmom says:

      LOVE this guy!

    10. Lisa says:

      I remember George back in the Mark Hendricks days at the Nox at Greenwich. George is adorable…I really enjoyed reading this.