This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of the hottest and hardest-to-get tables in Miami.
[Photo Credit: Adeline Ramos]
Eater talked with Jerry Böck, the new General Manager of Cecconi's, the restaurant at the ultra-private and sophisticated Soho Beach House Miami. The Holland native has been in Miami for eight years collectively, with previous stints at Nikki Beach, Prime One Twelve, Prime Italian, and Crazy Pianos. Recently back in Miami after taking his gate-keeping skills around the globe, Jerry gives some insight to dining at the restaurant (open to all) in Miami's most exclusive hotel and members-only club where many celebrities enjoy themselves without being bothered by press or public.
It's 8:30 on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table?
We try to accommodate as soon as possible of course. Those with reservations are seated immediately; walk-ins we accommodate at the bar area until a table is ready.
What about earlier or later in the night?
At 7pm or 10pm, a wait will be non-existent.
Is there anything one can do to make the wait shorter? How about if you're slipped some cash or gifts?
8:30 is always prime time, so definitely have a reservation. Gifts? Eh... not really (laughs). At Prime [One Twelve], it did help if you were a basketball or baseball player-- then your table was ready. Here, it doesn't really make a difference.
How many seats are available on a given night?
We have 140 seats outside and 50 seats inside.
Who are some of your favorite celeb customers?
We have had quite a few celebrities already; it's definitely a scene for the famous. Obviously, I can't disclose who they are. Cecconi's is owned by Soho and operated as an individual entity, but we still honor the same policy of no photographs, no disclosing who our celebrities are.
I heard Robert Downey Jr. is in town... I'm sure he's making the rounds?
He hasn't been here, but I can tell you what he likes (laughs).
If the restaurant is full and there aren't any tables available, can you ever not accommodate a VIP?
No. We always can.
Have there been any outrageous requests you couldn't accommodate?
We try accommodate every request people have. Within what we can do at an Italian restaurant of course.
What's the ratio of customers who are members versus non-members?
It's a good mix. We have special nights with perks for members, like on Mondays where everything on the menu is half off. Non-members get perks too-- Wednesdays we have the family-style dinner which is fun and casual. Sundays we do our brunch buffet. For brunch you DEFINITELY need a reservation, otherwise we can't guarantee even a 30 minute wait time. We tell people they have to leave after two hours, otherwise they'll be here all day. It's the steal of the century for $35; there's no such thing as elaborate for the price.
What about the challenges you face managing a place like Cecconi's?
Well, there's always room to improve, but I have a very professional staff that makes it easy to work with.
What's been your favorite night thus far?
So far, my first Monday night I met a lot of members, and it had a family feel. I received a warm welcome, so it was nice. You realize how great of a melting pot Miami is once you've been away for a while.
When you're not working at Cecconi's, where do you go to eat?
Mandolin in the Design District-- the owner is a good friend of mine. Salumeria 104 is really nice as well. There are a lot of new things going on at the beach besides your typical big establishments. I like Pubbelly. My breakfast place is Buena Vista Deli. They have the best croissants in Miami. I live on the beach, but I make the drive there just for the croissants.
What's your best gatekeeper tool?
I would have to say it's my cross-cultural background, due to different levels of exposure to the hospitality industry.