Rivington St between Bowery and Chrystie St
Driving a stretch limo must be a real hoot. [Laughs] It can be. I get a wide variety of people—people who just need a quick trip or people who want to go all the way to Boston and back.
But all ostentatious in their choice of ride. Actually, sometimes it’s a pretty practical reason. A lot of times it’s that they have very large families and it’s cheaper to rent a stretch limo than a big passenger van.
Do people pretend you’re not there and have weirdly private conversations? Oh, sure, that happens a lot. They share very intimate details about family, business and everything else. That’s part of the reason they hire me; I’m supposed to mind my own business. And I do.
Any sex in that backseat? [Laughs] I don’t think I should mention that. It is an entertaining job. I was very hesitant to take it. I was a full-time musician for 25 years before this.
And you gave it up? No, I’m still a musician, but not full-time because my business drove off a cliff in 2007.
What kind of music do you play? I’m a New York musician: I play jazz, rock, party music, Argentine tango, Jewish klezmer, Greek wedding music. I play in bars and restaurants and concert halls, and do some recording from time to time. I’ve probably been in every bar that you’ve ever seen. [Laughs]
Are you a one-man band? I can be. I play keyboard and guitar, and I sing. I know a boatload of songs and could go on for hours. I’ve also been working with a jazz trio at Sac’s pizzeria in Astoria every Monday from 7 to 10:30pm. We’re going on our 13th year.
Cool. Can you sing while you drive? [Laughs] No. But I love doing private parties.
Between your two jobs, you must get quite an inside peek at fancy New Yorkers’ lives. Oh, yeah. Depending on where I am, I could be with the likes of Rupert Murdoch—I’ll be, like, half a table away from people like that, but I’m in a position where I find it very difficult to leverage any of it. It’s fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
More from John
“I’ve lived in Queens my entire life.”
In a city full of eateries striving to come across as authentically New York, it takes a Japanese-inspired London import to create a space that feels truly international. With locations in far-flung Dubai, Bangkok and Miami, Zuma’s globe-trotting influences play out in both appearance and menu at this New York outpost, which opened in 2015. The brainchild of German-born chef Rainer Becker, the 100-seat, iron-and-leather–clad concept centers on the informal Japanese style of izakaya dining, which typically involves shareable small plates along with a selection of sake. And while the markings of an upscale izakaya abound—there’s a sushi counter, 80-bottle sake bar and robata grill—, informal would also be the best way to characterize the restaurant’s treatment of its principal cuisine. Offered a la carte or in a choice of chef’s omakase ($58 classic, $98 signature, $158 premium), the menu comprises such worldly offerings as prawn-and-cod dumplings, pork belly with yuzu mustard miso and an oven-roasted, corn-fed chicken roasted on cedar wood. On a recent night, the mid-range signature omakase opened with a steamed baby spinach lathered in a pleasantly sweet, almost peanut-buttery sesame dressing, before delving into a mixed parade of raw and robata offerings—of these, the standout was a simple yet instantly addictive fried softshell crab dipped in mizuna (Japanese mustard) and wasabi mayo, while crowd-pleasing seabass sashimi (yuzu, truffle salmon roe) proved likewise a succ
Venue says: “Zuma New York's twist on the classic brunch is not to be missed; join us every Sunday. For reservations call 212.544.9862”