Nicola Siervo: The After-Dark Duke
By Bill Williams
Photographs by Lyall Aston
“For college, I went to Polimoda in Florence, part of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Then I moved to New York City, studied marketing communications and went to work for an Italian company that owned stores in the city. At night, I’d go to Nell’s, MK, Café Tabac, Save the Robots, everywhere. As a student, I was a waiter at a place called Arlecchino, and that’s where I met Cesare Bruni, who had Boom there. I knew nothing, but the restaurant and club business interested me; I eventually became a promoter at Boom. And when Cesare decided to do Bang on South Beach, he made me an offer.”
The success of Bang led to Jason Binn, then copublisher of Ocean Drive and founder of Niche Media Holdings, asking Siervo to join him in running Bar None with Oliver Stone. “It was the first club below Fifth Street, right on Washington Avenue. Everyone was there: Jack Nicholson, Madonna, Gianni Versace. When it was sold in 1996, I traveled for three months.”
Naturally Siervo went to the nightclub-infested Ibiza, where he still goes every summer, a typical busman’s holiday for any nightlife guy. When he returned to South Beach, he joined up with some other pivotal figures.
“Ingrid Casares and Chris Paciello wanted to do Joia, and we debuted on Ocean Drive in 1998. We had an incredible opening with Madonna and people like Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz. During the production of Any Given Sunday, you’d see Al Pacino, or Oliver Stone, sitting by himself at a table and working on the script. But then, Chris had his problems….”
Paciello, of course, had major problems when his past—including an association with a New York crew involved with a botched home invasion that led to murder—caught up to him. Paciello went to jail for six years, then eventually moved to Los Angeles and wound up in the restaurant business. He’s rumored to be returning to South Beach and the nightlife wars very soon.
After the Joia era, Siervo joined Rony Seikaly and Roberto Caan, a very former partner. “In 2005, Roberto and I fell out— now we don’t get along anymore,” says Siervo. Back in 2001, the dream team opened the sleek modernist Mynt Lounge on 19th and Collins Avenue, new nightlife terrain at the time. The next year he opened Metro Kitchen + Bar at the Hotel Astor with hotel owner Karim Masri, followed by Rok Bar with Tommy Lee, and Vita across the street with Caan. Mynt Lounge, Rok Bar and Vita were all eventually sold.
South Beach is a nocturnal world seemingly without end, and Siervo has been there through most of the history made in darkness. At a certain age, he insists that he’d like to retire and open a quiet little 40-seat restaurant somewhere in Italy. But for the moment, Quattro is popping. A table of Italian fashionistas, over-calibrated whooping cranes of chic, chatter about other people’s bad taste. The eternal gene pool of models and buxom party girls in tight dresses order Champagne, accompanied by older sugar providers with untucked pressed dress shirts and a practiced leer. And Siervo, for now, remains the ringmaster of the new order. “You can have the most beautiful club in the world, but unless you have a lot of beautiful girls there, it means nothing. No girls, not so good [a] club. Look at all the girls—how can you not like South Beach?”
Location courtesy of the W South Beach
Watch our behind-the-scenes footage from Brazilian bombshell Alessandra Ambrosio's Ocean Drive photo shoot.