Longtime pals Andy Curtin and Aaron Lefkove, co-owners of the popular Gowanus clam shack Littleneck (288 Third Ave between Carroll and President Sts, Gowanus, Brooklyn; 718-522-1921, littleneckbrooklyn.com), toiled in unsatisfying jobs before deciding to enter NYC’s cutthroat restaurant game. It was a daunting task, especially considering both had barely any experience in the industry. But since it opened last October, Littleneck has become a destination, attracting customers from the five boroughs and beyond. (A wait for a table on weekends can hover around two hours.) The tiny, dimly lit space, with 13 tables plus 11 seats at the bar, has a lived-in, by-the-sea vibe.
Part of the restaurant’s popularity can be traced to its fund-raising campaign through Kickstarter. Curtin and Lefkove raised about 5 percent of their start-up capital via the crowd-funding site, offering incentives like oysters for life (with a pledge of $5,000). “It ended up getting picked up by the press, and all of a sudden, it was on every food blog,” says Lefkove. “I remember [seeing] John Hodgman tweeting about it, and I was like, Wow!” In the next couple months, the duo plans to open another restaurant, the Pines, two doors down, with chef Angelo Romano (Roberta’s). We spent an afternoon at the eatery to see how it operates.
Wanna work here?
“People leave or find other jobs or their bands have to go on tour, so we’re always on the lookout for really great people,” says Lefkove. For jobs in front of the house, he looks for servers who are enthusiastic and want to really understand the restaurant’s cuisine and drinks. Curtin adds that for kitchen jobs, there is a trial period: “Someone will trail [a staffer], and if they work out, they’re offered a job.”
Career advice from the Littleneck crew
“Jump, don’t look. Just jump. [Starting a new career is] really hard, but it’s never going to be as hard as you think; it’s never going to be insurmountable. And a good idea that speaks to people trumps everything else.”—Aaron Lefkove, co-owner
“If you don’t know what you’re getting into, surround yourself with people who do.”—Andy Curtin, co-owner