Ton-Up Café brings vintage, inviting atmosphere to East Village

Utalpa Menon for WSN
Utalpa Menon for WSN

By Utpala Menon

Sitting across the table with their vintage leather jackets and buckled boots, restaurateurs Ricardo Pieroni and Federico Stefanelli remained in character as they spoke proudly of Ton-Up Café and its café racer roots.

The Italian duo attribute the name of their restaurant to the nostalgia of living up these roots in Europe: Ton-Up Café’s theme comes from the English café racers of the 1970s. This biker demographic, which normally included 17 to 25 year-olds, sped over a 100 miles per hour in the big cities of Europe to make a “ton-up.”

Pieroni and Stefanelli started the café because of their passion that stemmed from cultured cuisine, a love for the café racer tradition and the rock culture of the 1950s.


They remain loyal to these passions by being creative with the dishes on their menu. Salads are named after bike companies such as BSA and Ducati, while the Panini names are based on rock personalities such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

There is the Chuck Berry Panini ($13), with Parma prosciutto, Holland tomatoes and basil, served with mesclun salad, and organic salads, such as the Triton, a mixed green salad with grilled shrimp, mango, cucumber and sliced oranges.

“The quality of the food was very good for a reasonable price,” CAS freshman Swati Malik said. “It was really fresh, and the sandwiches in particular were very unique with a blend of different tastes.”

The café, which had an unofficial opening about two weeks ago, is currently open only as a wine bar and restaurant at night. Nevertheless, the owners plan on having a grand opening at the beginning of May, and to offer Wi-Fi services in the mornings.

“We want to be a place where students can come in with laptops, order a coffee and work in the mornings,” Stefanelli said.

Pieroni, who owns a pastel blue European classic bike, speaks proudly of the retro, vintage culture that the duo is trying to fortify in Alphabet City.

“Very few people know that this is a subculture now in Manhattan. I often see customers wearing the jackets and boots of the ’50s while entering Ton-Up without even noticing they match up to the theme,” Pieroni said. “Ton-Up is not only a restaurant but a tradition that we are trying to recreate.”

The owners said they hope to become international in their approach to cuisine.

“We are not an Italian restaurant,” Stefanelli said. “Of course, you can see our Italian influence, but we are trying to make it as continental as possible.”

Ton-Up Café is located at 127 St. Marks Place.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Apr. 24 print edition. Utpala Menon is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]



  1. Please research these articles properly. Cafe racers refers solely to the bikes Rockers rode on. They rode them in the early 1960s and never took them to Europe -they couldn’t afford to. If you’re going to try to fortify a culture at least do it right…


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