Playing the game of nightlife
Stuff at Night's fourth annual Nightlife Players list

Justin (of the Models Group) plays his cards right at City Bar, in the Lenox Hotel

Peter McCarthy and Michael Bissanti playing 'Trust Me, I'm Good at This' at Perking Tom's

FORGET ABOUT BOSTON’S history, architecture, and political clout — what really makes Boston a world-class city is its nightlife. We have an incredible wealth of cultural riches at our disposal: restaurants, nightclubs, museums, art galleries, comedy clubs, performance spaces, music halls, sporting events, galas, benefits, and parties of all sorts. These things are our business, and we know them better than anyone. And we also know the people who drive this nightlife culture: they are the "players."

What makes a player? In the nightlife realm, we define a player as a person who has the clout, influence, imagination, and guts to get the job done. A nightlife player is someone who is immensely successful, yes, but also someone who helps drive his or her entire industry, both through direct influence and leading by example. Players are not only on the scene — they make the scene.

Since the movers and shakers on this list play with the concepts of power and influence, we thought it only fitting that we should ask them to play with us. By and large, these are serious people who take their work, and their roles in the nightlife community, very seriously. We thought we would shake things up a bit by asking all participants who were photographed for this, our fourth annual "Nightlife Players" issue, to show us their playful side in the photos. It’s a nice juxtaposition with how seriously committed they are to making Boston after dark a better place to play.


Jasper White

Jasper White’s Summer Shack

Would it be too much to call Jasper the new Julia? After all, this is a man who, with his eponymous restaurant, introduced many New Englanders to their native cuisine in the ’80s. Currently, he heads three Summer Shack restaurants (Back Bay, Alewife, and Mohegan Sun), and serves as the authority on New England cuisine and seafood. A legend walks among us, and his name is Jasper.

Michael Conlon, Michael Bissanti, and Peter McCarthy

Michael Conlon is a partner in the following five establishments: Peking Tom’s, the Blarney Stone, the 21st Amendment, the Paramount, and West, which will be opening in West Roxbury later in April. Michael Bissanti is in for a piece of Peking Tom’s, the Paramount, and the Blarney Stone. Peter McCarthy owns part of Peking Tom’s and the 21st Amendment. Got all that? What you really need to know is that these gentlemen are a collective rising force in Boston nightlife — and that they are all truly nice guys who have a lot of fun with their businesses.

Barbara Lynch and Garrett Harker

No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, the Butcher Shop

Lynch’s Southie-girl-turned-restaurant-goddess story is the stuff of movies — indeed, the 2002 documentary film Amuse Bouche: A Chef’s Tale is about her life. While No. 9 remains on everyone’s list of the top restaurants in the country, the newer B&G Oysters and the Butcher Shop are what currently have the town talking about their style, panache, and, naturally, the quality of their food.

Charlie Sarkis

Back Bay Restaurant Group

The Back Bay Restaurant Group’s holdings include 36 restaurants along the Northeast seaboard, including 15 Joe’s American Bar & Grills, 14 Papa Razzis, and four Charley’s — wow! Throw in Abe & Louie’s, one of Boston’s most renowned and successful steak houses, and the Atlantic Fish Company, one of Boston’s most renowned seafood restaurants, and you can see that Sarkis is all about one thing: success.

Lydia Shire

Locke-Ober and Excelsior

Shire is known around the country for her bold approach in the kitchen — she has opened a lot of minds in her career, from her time cooking with Jasper White at Seasons, at her old restaurant Biba, and now at Excelsior and Locke-Ober. But don’t mistake Shire’s boldness for recklessness; she does not turn her back on classic preparations or service. Rather, she jazzes them up to meet her supremely high standards.

Gordon and Fiona Hamersley

Hamersley’s Bistro

Gordon and Fiona were pioneers in bringing modern bistro culture to Boston, and to this day Hamersley’s still sets the bar for quality and charm. And you can now add "cookbook author" to Gordon’s résumé (Fiona pitched in with wine advice), as his fantastic Bistro Cooking at Home is currently on bookstore shelves.

Andy Husbands

Tremont 647, Sister Sorel, Rouge, and Kestral (in Providence)

Andy Husbands is a bad-ass chef, a successful restaurateur, a barbecue champion, and perhaps most important of all, deeply involved in charities like Operation Frontline. He’s a chef with the clout to get people out to his events.

Stephanie Sokolove

Stephanie’s on Newbury

Sure, Stephanie picked a perfect location for her upscale-comfort-food restaurant (at the corner of Newbury and Exeter Streets), but her customers wouldn’t keep coming back if the food and service weren’t great. This is a woman who commands respect.

Paul O’Connell

Chef/owner, Chez Henri

O’Connell is, in our opinion, one of our city’s most underappreciated chefs, as his talent and vision are truly extraordinary. One group of people who do fully appreciate the man’s talents: his peers in the industry, who continually sing his praises.

Tony Ambrose

Blackfin Chop House

This knock-your-socks-off chef has shown his confidence and maturity with the Blackfin concept, which is the marriage of a high-end steak house with a superb seafood/sushi restaurant. Blackfin Chop House does not feature the meticulous and sometimes outrageous preparation of Ambrose’s now-defunct Ambrosia (RIP), but it is perhaps even more satisfying in its relative simplicity.

Jody Adams, Karen Haskell, Gary Sullivan, and Michela Larson

Sapphire Group

The Sapphire Group owns and operates Rialto, Blu, and Noir, but it consults for a wide range of restaurants both old and new. Adams is the award-winning chef and cookbook author, Haskell the financial brains, Sullivan the operations maestro, and Larson the guiding force (and local legend, based on her old restaurant, Michela’s).

Holly Heslop and Charlie Christopher

This husband-and-wife team owns some of Cambridge’s finest dining and live-music venues, including Christopher’s, Toad, West Side Lounge, Cambridge Common, and the Lizard Lounge. The revitalization of the strip of Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter Squares owes much to them.

Jack Bardy

Pho République

Bardy is Boston’s arbiter of hip, as the smashing success of his Pho République restaurant clearly demonstrates. Pho has been a model for many a restaurateur wishing to meld elements of fine dining, ethnic cuisine, and cool lounge.

Brian O’Neill

The Good Life (Downtown and Cambridge) and Centro

O’Neill is a savvy restaurateur who knows the business inside and out — don’t you wish you’d thought of the Good Life concept?

Roger Berkowitz

Legal Sea Foods

As CEO of Legal, Berkowitz is the man behind the empire. Legal is known far and wide for its commitment to freshness, its revolutionary processing and testing procedures, and its overall dedication to quality. And with 26 restaurants (and counting) in seven states, Berkowitz deals in quantity and quality.

John Hauck

The Living Room

The Living Room has quietly become not only a hot afterwork spot (it’s close to the Financial District), but also a real destination for North Enders looking for something decidedly without red sauce. As owner, Hauck has nurtured the Living Room into a full-fledged Boston hot spot.

Chris Schlesinger

East Coast Grill

The man — and the restaurant — that launched a thousand chefs (well, maybe a couple of dozen). Schlesinger pretty much invented the casual upscale restaurant, and he remains a mentor for many in the business.

Ken Oringer


Oringer is a player because he is at the top, talent-wise, of a very demanding and competitive profession. Any number of hungry and curious journalists and chefs can be seen eating at Clio on a regular basis. That’s because Oringer’s food pushes the envelope of innovation and quality.

Seth Woods and Jeff Gates

Aquitaine Group

Woods is the chef/owner, Gates the GM/partner (of Union), and together they make the Aquitaine Group (whose holdings include the restaurants Aquitaine, Aquitaine Bis, Metropolis, the Armani Café, and Union) one of the most powerful and respected restaurant conglomerates in the city. All of which would mean nothing, of course, if they weren’t devoted to providing a top-notch dining experience at all locations.

Frank McClelland

L’Espalier and Sel de la Terre

McClelland, the chef/owner of L’Espalier and the co-owner (with chef Geoff Gardner) of Sel de la Terre, is lauded by his peers as one of the most discriminating chefs and restaurateurs in the nation.

Samir Majmudar

Majmudar is the driving force behind the restaurants Rangoli, Tanjore, Bhindi Bazaar, and Rani Indian Bistro. They are all restaurants that up the ante for authentic, highly regionalized Indian food.

Hemant Chowdhry and Amrik Pabla

This is the team behind such high-end establishments as Kashmir, Mantra, Diva, Bukhara, Café of India, Shalimar, and the Kebab Factory — talk about having a lot on your plate! These are not your corner curry joints; they are lovely restaurants where attention to detail and quality are paramount.

Vinod and Shikha Kapoor

This husband-and-wife team owns and operates the venerable Harvard Square restaurant Bombay Club, as well as Kebab-N-Kurry and newcomer Masala Spice.

Deborah Hughes and Mary-Catherine Deibel

Co-owners, UpStairs on the Square

The playful creativity of UpStairs is part of what defines the Boston restaurant scene on the national level. Executive chef Hughes and hostess-with-the-mostest Deibel are also very generous in donating their services to myriad charity events.

Daniel Bruce

Meritage and Boston Wine Festival

Bruce is another of those chefs whose names might carry more weight on the national scene than on the local one, and that is a shame. Meritage is one of the best — and most forward-thinking — restaurants around, and the Boston Wine Festival has become a hallmark event within the New England food community.

Paul Roiff

XV Beacon, the Federalist, Mistral, and Teatro

You don’t come to own a hotel like XV Beacon — and three of the city’s best restaurants — without being a player, and Roiff certainly qualifies. The Federalist itself is a players’ haven, what with its elegant atmosphere, incredible food, and one of the country’s top wine lists. Roiff’s partner in Mistral and Teatro, executive chef Jamie Mammano, also plays a key role in the success of those two restaurants.

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Issue Date: March 30 - April 12, 2004