On Huron Street just off the Greenpoint G-Train stop, Paige Lipari is meticulously planning a world where she hopes foodies will feel deliciously at home. At Archestratus Books, slated to open late summer/early fall, Lipari will house hundreds of carefully curated cookbooks and host small, ticketed dinner parties with a warm, intimate atmosphere.
At the shop Monday, Lipari explained how the goal is to make the modest space as diverse as possible. Much of the furniture will have wheels to make it easier to rearrange the layout. “It has to be highly functioning space,” she said.
There will be a small kitchen and a banquet table in the back where guests will sit down to dinners prepared by guest chefs. During the day, the back of the store will convert into a café where Lipari will sell her homemade sweet and savory Sicilian pastries. In the front of the store cookbooks from all over the world, about half of them used, will be arranged according to sections you would find in a traditional bookstore (travel, music, fiction, etc.).
The concept combines Lipari’s two loves: cooking and books. At 19 she went to Sicily and met her whole family, and the experience had a profound impact on her. “I came back, and it permeated all aspects of my life,” she said. “I became very interested in my background, so I obsessively started reading cookbooks and cooking Sicilian food all the time.” She currently lives in Prospect Heights with her 93-year-old Sicilian grandmother, whose family owned a famous New York dairy shop called Latticini Freschi in the 1930s, and she’s constantly trying to figure out her grandmother’s old Italian recipes. She’s looking forward to hosting “Sicilian Nights” at Archestratus, where she will cook an Italian feast for guests.
Lipari’s training is more on the literary side, and she definitely knows her way around a bookstore. Her love of books led to jobs at McNally Jackson, Barnes & Noble and Idlewild. When she realized she wanted to open a bookstore of her own, she took every free business class she could find. Then she entered the New York Pubic Library’s Brooklyn Business contest, which tutors its entrants on how to write a business plan and requires them to make presentations on their ideas. Lipari ended up being one of the contest’s 10 winners in 2013.
Two years later she’s turning the plan into reality, and the store is taking shape. “It’s meant just to be a space that feels like anything’s possible. But focused, and with intention,” she said. The store is named after the Greek poet Archestratus, whose book The Life of Luxury was written in the 4th Century but stands the test of time, said Lipari. “It was like he was making fun of his own cookbook,” she said. “For a cookbook written in 400 BC, he had injected this personality into it.” A lot of its principles are coming back into fashion, she said. “The whole book is about having quality ingredients, preparing them simply and letting them shine.”
The decor will be “Medieval Sicily meets colorful mid-century modern,” according to Lipari. She’s still working on securing some of the building permits, but the store seems well on its way. In preparation for seeking Community Board 1’s approval for a beer and wine license (which she received last week) she collected more than 50 signatures from her neighbors. “Most people were warm and amazing and lovely,” she said. “It felt like a small town, which I just wasn’t expecting.”