It’s not quite lunchtime at City Limits Diner in White Plains, but already the restaurant is jumping.
Out front, regular patron and fashion expert André Leon Talley is holding court like a latter-day Lorenzo de’ Medici, resplendent in red and black.
At a table in the back, Mark and Joyce Corpas are perusing the menu, having driven up from Yonkers, as they are wont to do. They’re enticed by the restaurant’s “variety.” As Joyce puts it, “It’s not your typical diner.”
While the pot stickers, chipotle ribs and assorted other appetizers are among their favorites, Mark is thinking of going with perhaps the ultimate comfort food — the chicken meatloaf, served with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable — while Joyce flirts with the oriental chicken salad, thin slices of chicken tenting field greens and drizzled with a tangy dressing.
Meanwhile, the WAG reporter is dreaming of the fluffy orange juice-infused waffle — whose nooks and crannies cushion blueberries, blackberries and strawberry and banana slices — or the whole-wheat pancakes with bacon and fruit sides.
At City Limits, there is no limit to the good food, good service and good company.
“I started going to City Limits in 2002 as I discovered it driving around on Saturday afternoon looking for a car dealership,” says Talley, a once-a-day regular whose faves include the potato leek soup, the waffle with blueberries and the Tuesday night special, turkey with all the trimmings, including “the wonderful cranberry sauce.” “Why do I love it? For so many reasons, but most importantly, the staff, the team, the sense of a family unit that works together. It stems from the executive chief, Peter Eric Assue, and goes all the way down….It’s like my canteen outside of my home.”
That no doubt is music to the ears of siblings Nick, Bill and Corina Livanos, owners of The Livanos Restaurant Group that includes City Limits White Plains, City Limits Stamford, Moderne Barn in the family’s hometown of Armonk and three Manhattan eateries – the flagship Oceana; Molyvos, named for the ancestral hometown on the Greek isle of Lesbos that the family returns to each year; and Abboccato Italian Kitchen.
The Livanos patriarch and restaurant group founder John is still “very active,” in the business, says Nick, the oldest of the siblings. Matriarch Chrysa “does office work once and a while,” he adds — when she isn’t making great meals for the family, like her stuffed cabbage with ground beef recently.
“It was so good,” says Corina, the youngest of the three.
“She made stuffed cabbage?” Bill, the middle child, asks. “I missed it.”
The siblings’ have an easy, teasing relationship with one another that makes the answer to the question “What’s it like to run half a dozen restaurants with people you’re related to” a foregone conclusion.
“It’s been great,” Bill says. “We each play different roles. Nick has it the toughest. He goes back and forth between all the restaurants.”
Bill oversees the City Limits locales; Corina, Oceana and Moderne Barn.
As a result of the siblings’ complementary duties, Corina says, “I never see my brothers — though I do go into the city with Nick on Wednesdays.”
The recent sit-down with WAG at City Limits White Plains was a rare moment for the Livanoses to gather and consider their culinary past and future.
It began in 1957 with their father, a Greek immigrant who said goodbye to life in the merchant marine when his ship docked in Boston, Nick says.
Making his way to New York, he found work as a dishwasher in his Uncle Kosta’s restaurant on 42nd Street and Second Avenue. Three years later, he bought a luncheonette in Long Island City.
In 1985, John opened Livanos Restaurant on the site of what is now City Limits White Plains (near Westchester County Center at the juncture of Central Avenue and Tarrytown Road). Two and half years ago, the family revamped the diner to give it more of a restaurant feel, complete with paintings by Redding artist Julie Hardridge.
Now, the family is looking to add to its portfolio with a new place in Via 57West, described as the gateway to the residential block the Durst Organization is developing on the West Side.
With the next generation beginning to come of age, the family’s restaurant dynasty would seem assured, although as Nick says, “let me find their own path.”
For more, visit livanosrestaurantgroup.com.