I Maybe Met My Future Mother-in-Law at Michael Imperioli’s New Cocktail Lounge

Sure, I got to meet Imperioli and his lovely wife, Victoria. But, more importantly, I got to meet the woman who may have birthed my future first husband.

I Maybe Met My Future Mother-in-Law at Michael Imperioli’s New Cocktail Lounge
Photo:HBO/Courtesy of Scarlet Lounge

When Scarlet, a new cocktail bar and lounge from Michael Imperioli officially opened on Manhattan’s Upper West Side two weeks ago, I sent a link to a fellow Aries chaos agent and wrote, “We’re going,” with a photo of Lucia and Mia from season two of The White Lotus. Imperioli, his wife, Victoria, an interior designer and entrepreneur, and restaurateur, Jeremy Wladis, collaborated on the dark, swanky watering hole, inspired by a “French wartime vibe.” It’s the kind of place that will inevitably be frequented by horny Millennial women who will post a photo of their espresso martini on their Instagram stories and caption it with something like: “WYA @MichaelImperioli.” I should know because that’s what I did.

“Scarlet offers an elegant and transportive atmosphere…. and a certain magic that only Victoria can create,” Imperioli told Eater. This isn’t the first establishment the couple has owned and operated together. In the early aughts, there was the now-closed Ciel Rouge—or, as the New York Times called it, “a sultry speakeasy” in Chelsea. Notably, the Imperiolis don’t drink, but “bar culture” and the allure of establishing a singular space for those that do imbibe was reason enough to open another in a different borough. How fortunate (for me) that this one is uptown!

So on Thursday, I found myself at the corner of West 83rd Street and Amsterdam. It’s a little over a week until Christmas and spirits are higher—and more hysterical—than ever on the streets. Because I historically hate this time of year, I’m desperate for more than a few over-priced cocktails with silly little names.

Spoiler alert: Yes, I did meet and chat with Mr. and Mrs. Imperioli. More importantly, though, I made some new friends like a “famous jazz musician,” and a woman who, with any luck, just might become my future mother-in-law.

Let’s fun!

5:30 p.m.: I arrive 30 minutes after the doors open on a Thursday and yet, the place is packed. The interiors—wall-to-wall crimson velvet and gold fixtures—are every bit as lush as the Imperiolis’ apartment. In fact, they evoke the inside of a jewel box—the kind that Christofa would gift Adriana after his latest fuck up. Harry Winston, baby. More carats than Bugs Bunny. You get it. If I ever date someone in the mob, this is where I’d like them to take me.

5:32 p.m.: The host recommends I wait for my table at Fred’s, a more casual burger bar next door, and leads me through a hidden little side door that connects the two. From bada bing to bada blasé.

5:50 p.m.: I’m halfway through a negroni when I realize every square inch of the wall is covered in personal portraits of different dogs.

6:20 p.m.: Unfortunately, the friend I invited was sick that day, so I invited my boss (and favorite drinking buddy) to join me since she assigned this to me in the first place. Lauren arrives, orders a glass of rosé, and just as it’s placed in front of her, we learn our seats are ready. She responds by promptly chugging it like this. Jezebel is back, baby!

6:21 p.m.: Our seats turn out to be two floating barstools behind the seats at the main bar. I glance around at the occupied couches and tables and quickly realize just how tight the space is. If I moved my arm the wrong way, I’d elbow someone in the rib. Fortunately, an older couple is leaving the bar and kindly offers their seats.

6:25 p.m.: Surveying the room, it’s clear I’m not the only media person present. (I later overhear someone introducing themselves as a producer at a very well-known show.) There’s also a fairly eclectic mix of people: Groups of Gen Z coworkers, Millennials clearly on dates, and Boomer couples who I imagine have called this neighborhood home for decades.

6:26 p.m.: A woman next to me tells us she’s tried both a cocktail and a mocktail and gives each a stellar review. I note there’s a drink on the menu called “The White Lotus,” a lethal combination of Don Q Cristal Rum, pineapple, yuzu, coconut sugar, and champagne. Something tells me I’d make like Tanya McQuoid if more than one entered my bloodstream.

6:27 p.m.: I order—you guessed it—an espresso martini while Lauren opts for a “Bartender’s Choice.” Then, like magic, a free White Lotus gets placed in front of me, too. The bartender says he made an extra by accident. I take two sips and decide it’s far too sweet. The martini, however, is perfect—even if I don’t taste the sea salt advertised on the menu. Lauren’s drink is a cucumber, champagne, and gin concoction. She says it’s fine.

6:50 p.m.: There’s a marked shift in the atmosphere that can only mean one thing: The man himself has arrived. Like every third person in the place, I crane my neck toward the door to watch as Imperioli and his wife, Victoria, make their way toward the bar. Of course, he can’t take a step without being stopped by patrons clamoring to have a word. Technically, the bar is so small, that even if people weren’t competing for his attention, it’d still very much appear that they were. Thankfully, I’m not that desperate…

“‘I just don’t feel connected to childbirth,’ I hear myself telling her when she asks if I want children.”

7:15 p.m.:…until, that is, my second espresso martini. After Imperioli fist-bumps every employee behind the bar and clears tables of empty glasses, I find myself gesturing him to my stool.

7:17 p.m.: I introduce myself as a writer at Jezebel and tell Imperioli how kind everyone said he was when he came to our old office during The White Lotus press cycle. I leave out the fact that my colleague, Kady Ruth, and I fought over who got to interview him. (She won.)

7:18 p.m.: It’s unclear if he remembers the interview, but in response to the kindness compliment, he deadpans: “It shouldn’t be that hard.” No, it shouldn’t. Unfortunately, for many notables, it seems a Herculean feat.

7:30 p.m.: Because I am now feeling ever-so-slightly liquored up, I steal Victoria’s attention to thank her for hosting Lauren and me, as if she sent us an invitation herself. She’s everything I want to be when I grow up: effortlessly cool, unaffected by the masses (myself included) vying for her husband’s time, and approachable yet aloof somehow. We briefly discuss Fred’s next door and she tells me it was named for the owner’s dog, hence the portraits. I learn her favorite cocktail is the Scarlet Letter, a self-marketing savant!

8:00 p.m.: Lauren and I strike up a conversation with a woman and her friend who sat down next to us—I’m respectfully guessing they were in their mid-50s. We learn they live nearby and, before I know it, one of them seems to be trying to set me up with her son. He’s an artist, writer, poet, hard-working bartender, and an old soul, or something. From what I can recall, he sounded promising. Then again, moms have a real way of making it sound like that. How else would they get rid of their sons?

8:15 p.m.: “I just don’t feel connected to childbirth,” I hear myself telling her when she asks if I want children. When I’ve said that to older women in the past, they tend to let out a haughty laugh as if they’re somehow better than me because they did feel connected to bringing another artist, writer, poet, hard-working bartender, old soul, etc., etc., into the world. But, mothering harder than anyone has ever mothered, she tells me she totally gets it. If she’d invited me to Christmas, I would’ve shown up.

8:20 p.m.: I learn her son, on the other hand, definitely wants kids. I suggest that maybe we’ll find each other after he’s had children with another woman and an amicable divorce. “You’d want to be a stepmom?” she asks with detectable disbelief. “Sure.” For some reason, she approves and we make plans for our future.

9:00 p.m.: Lauren and I order the mini French dip and truffle fries. They’re alright.

9:21 p.m.: Unfortunately, the two women leave and are replaced by two guys…neither of whom I want to have children with either. The bartender asks if I’d like another drink, courtesy of these two gentlemen sitting literally two centimeters from us, as he already refills Lauren’s glass of champagne. I decline but Lauren gleefully accepts and calls me crazy.

9:40 p.m.: I reluctantly learn one of them is from Italy and one of them is from Greece, and one introduces the other as a “very famous jazz musician.” They ask us whether American women are annoyed by or attracted to European men.

9:50 p.m.: They tell us that the guy from Greece once dated the Jazz musician’s little sister. We just met, but this revelation is somehow unsurprising.

10 p.m.: Despite Beavis and Butt-Head’s protests, I’ve decided it’s time to settle up. The jazz musician asks for my number. I relent and he hands me what looks like a Spectrum TV remote.

10:58 p.m.: I’m home, nestled under my duvet, and panic-scrolling through the replies of a tweet that implies loving Milk Bar is another distinctly Millennial, and therefore cringe, quirk when I receive a text: “Please let me know if this is a real number :).” I don’t respond. Instead, I remember that I’ve been promised to a man who just needs to procreate and get rid of his pesky first wife before the fates can act on our behalf, then fall fast asleep.

Until then…I’ll be at Scarlet. Hopefully getting drunk with his mom.

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