Friends In Service

At Lovely Day, The Only Thing That Matters More Than Food Is Personality

Kazusa Jibiki and Dan Sutti have built a haven for downtown's creative class. How did they do it?


When I first moved to New York, I had one friend, Luke. We met on the first day of orientation, and we were an unlikely pair—he made black latex dresses for his older girlfriend and his favorite movie was Kids. I had just moved from Maine, freed from bucolic monotony, but was wobbly on my feet in the city. The first month I couldn’t sleep. My body wasn’t used to the thumping music, or klaxon-like sirens that rattled against my dorm window.

Luke took me to a restaurant he’d heard was cheap. The place, an amber-tinted cavity nestled on a wide treeline street in Nolita, was warm in every sense. Plates of pad thai scattered around friends, leaning back in their wooden chairs, while others slouched in the red booths, playing cards. The floral walls reminded me of the peeling wallpaper of my childhood kitchen. A couple weeks in the city, Lovely Day was the first place in New York that felt like home.

If everything is a nail to a hammer, everyone is a friend to Kazusa Jibiki. Hailing from Japan in the 90s, Kazusa opened Lovely Day in 2002 with a dream of blending Thai cuisine with European-cafe culture. Her Boston Terrier, Luisa, perches next to Kazusa in the booth. The restaurant, it seems, is truly an extension of her. She grins when I ask who her favorite customers are, and replies thoughtfully, “I like everyone, from the kids at Supreme to the ladies in their eighties.”

This article is for Readers Club subscribers only!

Subscribe now!

More Articles: