New York, New York. The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps. The home of the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and a branch of M&M's World. We've never been but we've heard all about it. Our friends have told us it's really cold in the winter and really hot in the summer and that you can buy face-sized slices of pizza for a dollar which, frankly, sounds like heaven, especially when our lunch today was a particularly sad batch of cous cous, eaten with a plastic fork, washed down with a cup of lukewarm tapwater.
It's not just the pizza we're interested in when it comes to Italian dining in NYC, though. We've heard, through the grapevine, about a little spot called La Mangiami, which just so happens to be pretty much every one of your favourite disco DJ's favourite hang out spot. Over the years the likes of Eric Duncan, Tim Sweeney, Thomas Bullock, and DJ Harvey have been spotted tucking into a hearty bowl Risotto Alla Campagnola and necking an Aperol Spritz or ten before taking to the decks for an impromptu and intimate set amongst likeminded friends, peers, and revellers, all up for a big night out in one of the city's hidden gems.
One man who fell in love with the place was Phil South, of Golf Channel Recordings fame. Late last year we received news that South had teamed up with the restaurant's legendary owner Gianfranco to release a compilation that brought together a few of the place's most loved tracks, the songs that bellowed through the dining room up until the La Mangiami closed for good. The result was Mangiami La Compilation, itself a spin-off from the three Mangiani Edits 12"s that South released back in 2014. Zipping into stores on some seriously heavyweight vinyl, and on CD, the compilation is essential for anyone out there with even the slightest interest in low-slung contemporary disco and features the likes of Alex from Tokyo, Willie Burns, and Felix Dickinson. Oh, and the one and only Tony Humphries has lovingly crafted a mixed version of the whole thing if that's your bag. Which it probably should be, given that it's Tony Humphires.
To celebrate it's release, we're bringing you an exclusive look at and listen to "The Spirit is Alive" by Totes Preesh, AKA Sean Marquand and Patrick Wood from The Phenomenal Handclap Band, and we also had a chat with both Phil and Gianfranco.
That was a great song with a great video wasn't it? Now you get to tuck into an incredibly tasty interview with Gianfranco and Phil, while gawping at some absolutely fantastic photos taken at the restaurant over the years.
THUMP: Firstly, can you tell us a little about how you stumbled upon Mangiami's in the first place? And what was the initial appeal of the spot?
Phil South: I remember my friend Jason Kincade started throwing parties there with Alex from Tokyo, called Sotto Voce. Maybe around 2004/5? They were chilled daytime affairs. That in itself was appealing at the time, anywhere to go and hang and hear good music was. I've always liked a daytime party so I was definitely excited to go and check it out. I remember mithering Jason to go and deejay there. Once you were there it was just great from the get go. Gianfranco's hospitality has been well chronicled, but for good reason. He was the consummate host...."Ciao Phil, come sit, have a drink," just lovely. Plus friends, or friends of friends, or soon to be new friends, were controlling the music, or Gianfranco would be playing nice mixes on the iPod. The feeling of being in someone's home also carried with it a bit more of a laissez faire attitude which was also disarming. A lot of places in New York can be a little officious so this was very refreshing.
Was there already a disco scene in place at the restaurant or did you kickstart it?
Gianfranco was/is a big fan of the music we love, was already going to all the Rub N Tug parties and was good friends with Eric and Thomas and all those guys, so it was definitely built in already by the time I first went there. People were doing parties there from the very start, it was just natural that it became a hub, what with Gianfranco's level of involvement at the parties around the turn of the millennium. I didn't kickstart anything, Gianfranco just came to me with the idea for La Compilation and I jumped at the opportunity.
How important is a venue like Mangiami's to the musical world you operate in? Related to that, was it primarily a social hang out?
I definitely made friends there that I may not have otherwise. It was always - "oh do you know so and so?" The social aspect fed the music. I definitely met Woody there who is one half of Totes Preesh who did the closing cut on the comp "The Spirit is Alive" so there is that direct connection to my musical world. It was also a great opportunity top go and DJ in a small, welcoming space, to friends and likeminded souls. The number of characters that were interested in the music is kind of small in NYC so it was good to get everyone concentrated in one spot.
Was the food any good?
It was fine! I drank more, and I usually ate with the family before going. The main night there for DJs was Monday, dubbed "L'Apertivo" and Gianfranco would put out free antipasti on the bar, that was a nice touch. The wine was always good, and Peroni is one of my favourite beers. Gianfranco can also be credited with the popularity of the Aperol Spritz in a certain New York demographic. And the Negroni!
How did Gianfranco feel about his restaurant morphing into one of the hottest nightspots in NYC?
Gianfranco: It wasn't the plan to be that. It naturally become the DJ spot. Probably because we've grown together. I've been living in NYC for 20 years and I spent my 20's partying with most of the NY DJs (like Eric Duncan, Thomas Bullock, Holmar Filipson, Greg Oreck, Neil Aline etc), they become popular and when I opened Mangiami, with my ex wife Maiko and my brother Michele, as good friends, they started to come visit me. And because most of them were DJs or party people it become a place to meet your friends or individuals with the same music taste.
Does the compilation feel like a way of fixing a musical moment in time and space in, well, time and space?
Gianfranco: The compilation is a variety of house and disco styles trying to give an idea of the mood you would find at Mangiami. But the main factor is that all the artists had played in Mangiami before and they felt the need to celebrate those years!
Phil: When Gianfranco approached me with the idea of the compilation, he already had some tracks that he had asked key people for. To me there was an aesthetic in place. It was all good vibes, happy music. Some were slow and happy, some were more uptempo, but the sunshiney mood permeated them all.
How did Tony Humphries get involved?
Gianfranco: Besides knowing Tony from a very long time ago, he's extremely popular in Italy. He, and especially his wife, had hung out in Mangiami, so like everybody else, he felt good about playing records at the bar for a small but knowledge crowd. So then, when we started putting the tracks together, me and Phil thought it would be great to have a mix CD so that you would be able to soak up all the tracks together. It just so happened that I had started talking about the release with Heather (Tony's wife) and she said we should ask Tony. We did and he was very interested in it! It's a New York thing so he fit perfectly!
Phil: I actually missed the night Tony played Mangiami. I remember getting texts off Gianfranco that were like "Where are uuuuuu??" But it felt like an affirmation, a seal of approval from an elder statesman. I wanted Tony's involvement to showcase the music to his crowd, which is older and in many ways quite conservative in their tastes. Tony's mix is incredible. It really joins the dots in a unique way. I had a hard time sequencing the vinyl, I wanted the tracklisting to draw you in and tell you a story, so when Tony sent me his tracklisting, I was intrigued as it was very different to how I had approached it. When I heard it I was blown away, the flow was perfect, and those trademark long blends of his just suck you further and further in. A masterpiece!
Mangiami - La Compilation is out now on Golf Channel. You can buy it here.
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