Connect with us

Food and Drink

Meet The Former and Present Residents of Manhattan Plaza: Steve Olsen



Steve Olsen began working in the restaurant industry at age 16. He started in the kitchen and worked his way through every position in the business. Steve opened the West Bank Cafe when he was all of 24. A passionate wine collector, he has amassed over 250 labels and holds vinification, viniculture, and blind wine tasting certificates from the American Sommelier Association. In keeping with West Bank Cafe’s close ties to the theater and film worlds, Steve has nurtured young actors, writers, and directors—including Lewis Black, Sean Penn, and Side Man playwright Warren Leight—many of whom appeared in and staged performances at the downstairs Laurie Beechman Theater, on their way to accomplished careers.

Steve and Bruce

T2C: When did you move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?

Steve Olsen: I moved into Manhattan Plaza in 1980. I applied for an apartment and moved in almost immediately, like within a month. 

There was no waiting list and nobody wanted to live in Hell’s Kitchen because is was too run down and dangerous. I had opened my restaurant, West Bank Cafe in 1978, so for me it was totally convenient to “live above the store”.

T2C: Were you there during the AIDS’s crisis? Tell us about that time.

Steve Olsen: When the AIDS crisis hit, it hit Manhattan Plaza hard.
The Manhattan Plaza AIDS Project was established by Rodney Kirk, the Director of Manhattan Plaza, and I served on the committee along with several community leaders, merchants and MP residents. We raised money and awareness in several ways, including producing an annual fundraiser event which featured a cabaret show at the Westside Theatre followed by a post show reception, which my restaurant, West Bank Cafe, catered every year (pro bono). 

T2C: How did the West Bank Cafe Come to be?

Steve Olsen: I opened West Bank Cafe on June 29th. 1978. I was the first commercial tenant at Manhattan Plaza. I met with Richard Hunnings and Rodney Kirk and signed a lease. I was 24 years old but had been working in the restaurant business since I was a young teenager at my uncle’s tavern, Gleason’s and other restaurants as well, so I had a few years experience in the business and thought I knew what I was doing. 

One year later, in 1979, I opened the Downstairs Theatre in the basement of WBC and started presenting shows.

T2C: What have been the biggest changes to the neighborhood and your business?

Steve Olsen: My mother and father both were born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen and moved to NJ after WW2, and my father was a longshoreman on Pier 90. I had a lot of relatives who lived on the West Side. As a kid we were in the city all the time visiting the cousins and I have a lot of memories about what the neighborhood was like in the 1960s and 1970s. It was really run down and the people were poor. It always seemed hotter in the Summer (nobody had AC) and there were no trees. The biggest change in the neighborhood in the 42 plus years that I have been operating my restaurant is that Hell’s Kitchen has gone from being an undesirable neighborhood to being a desirable one. Hell’s Kitchen was never featured in any tour guide books, except to warn tourists to stay away because it was dangerous, and there were no attractions to see. Nowadays, for the last 15-20 years or so, over 30 hotels have opened in the area and it’s still striking to me when I see tourists with suitcases walking around looking for their hotel. Also, there’s been an explosion of bars, restaurants and many other attractions that have opened up around us. 

T2C: What has living in the building allowed you to accomplish that you’re the most proud of?

Steve Olsen: Living at Manhattan Plaza has given me the ability to run a restaurant without having to commute to work everyday. Therefore, it’s a quality of life issue where I can come and go all day long. Also, I have shared history with so many friends, neighbors and customers through all the highs and lows, triumphs and disappointments of life. Also, being that our restaurant is located in the heart of the NY Theater District, I think we have the best clientele in the city; a real cross section of customers from all walks of life. 

T2C: What has been your biggest triumph?

Steve Olsen: I have had so many triumphs throughout the years both personally and professionally. I guess surviving two very serious illnesses (kidney disease and cancer) and surviving in an industry that has a 80-90%  fail rate are high on the list, but forging the friendships I have made throughout my life is the best accomplishment of all.

T2C: What would you change from your time in Manhattan Plaza?

Steve Olsen: I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. 

Steve Olsen

T2C: What is the restaurant currently doing during the coronavirus to help people get food?

Steve Olsen: West Bank Cafe is offering curbside pickup and delivery service Wednesday-Saturday from 2-7 pm. serving our Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea neighbors. We are taking orders on the phone from noon-6 pm. The menu is discounted and specials change weekly. We offer an additional 10% discount for senior citizens. There are no service fees. 

T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?

Steve Olsen: My proudest achievement is being the founder of the annual  “Steve Olsen Run For Rogosin 5K”, which has raised over $1 million since 2009. for the Rogosin Institute Kidney Center.

The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream. 

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email:


Celebrity Chef Sal Scognamillo, George Pettignano Bring Patsy’s Italian Restaurant To Life



Patsy’s Italian Restaurant has been known for years as the restaurant made famous by Frank Sinatra, and his family still enjoys dining here whenever they are in town. George Clooney’s aunt, cabaret singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, was once quoted, “Patsy’s is still the best Italian restaurant in town. I make a pasta pilgrimage there every time I return.”

Other long-time high profile patrons who consider Patsy’s Italian Restaurant their Manhattan dining room include, Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, George Clooney, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Tony Danza, Jennifer Lopez, Liza Minnelli, Al Pacino, Rihanna, Martha Stewart, Ben Stiller, Oprah Winfrey, and many others.

Celebrity Chef Sal Scognamillo

We all had the pleasure to join Celebrity Chef Sal Scognamillo for a very special Private Lunch on March 18th hosted City Guide and Eli Marcus.

Eli Marcus,George Pettignano

Chef Sal shared some of his riveting stories about celebrities, sports stars and others famous guests. Ha also told us a few one-of-a-kind frank Sinatra stories about Frank’s exclusive table near we were seated.

Popular entertainer George Pettignano, a cousin of Bobby Rydell, sang classic tunes from the 40’s to 70’s ranging from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Beatles, Elvis & more!  George, as a former Hollywood stunt man, shared some of his classic stories

Eli Marcus

Everyone enjoyed a great meal and then danced the afternoon away!

Eli Marcus, Celebrity Chef Sal Scognamillo, Errol Rappaport

Errol Rappaport, Celebrity Chef Sal Scognamillo,Eli Marcus

Steve Garrin, wife, George Pettignano

Colin O’Leary Celebrity Chef Sal Scognamillo,Rena Sylvester, Eli Marcus

Colin O’Leary,Rena SylvesterErrol Rappaport

Continue Reading

Food and Drink

Join The Art of Cooking Benefit



On Thursday, April 27th, Executive Chef Bryce Shuman of the Michelin-recognized Sweetbriarformerly of Eleven Madison Park, and The Sylvia Center, an organization founded in 2007 to address diet-related diseases in under-resourced communities across the five boroughs, will be hosting a 15th anniversary celebration fundraising event at their Art of Cooking Benefit.

Throughout the evening, The Sylvia Center will celebrate its founding supporter, Great Performances Hospitality Group and honor Wendy Dessy of Proskauer. The inaugural Miriam and Carl Stern Community Partnership Award will be granted to Jeannette Bocanegra of Justice for Families, a partner organization in the Bronx. The event will also feature students from three of The Sylvia Center’s Teen Culinary Apprenticeship programs in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, who will create their own dish that will be featured during the event’s cocktail hour.

The Art of Cooking Benefit will take place at Hudson Mercantile (500 W 36th St.) with cocktails being served from 6 pm – 7 pm and a sit-down dinner by Chef Bryce Shuman and programming will be from 7 pm – 8:30 pm.

Photo by ADG Photography

Continue Reading


All You Can Eat Free Lobster At Red Lobster’s Endless Lobster Event In Times Square



Red Lobster is offering select customers an all-you-can-eat lobster  at its flagship New York City location on Tuesday, March 28.

The first ever “Endless Lobster” event will treat 150 customers to as many 1¼-pound lobsters as they can handle, as well as broccoli and one side of choice.

Red Lobster will open reservations a week in advance at 10 a.m. EST on March 21.

The event will be staggered into three windows: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with each window seating 50 guests.

Though the lobster will be free, diners will still are responsible for drinks, additional sides and of course a generous tip. By signing up for the event, guests will also “grant Red Lobster the right and license to use their names, images, and/or statements for advertising and publicity purposes,” according to fine print of the event.

Guests must eat their lobster in house and no leftovers or doggie bags.

If you get a reservation you will be given a table for two. Reservations will be non-transferrable, and diners will be required to bring their Eventbrite confirmation email to get access. Click here to get a table on March 21st.

Continue Reading
Advertisement pf_06-2


Copyright © 2023 Times Square Chronicles

Times Square Chronicles