Tom Valenti may have been one of the chefs to pioneer the Upper West Side culinary explosion, but his West Branch in Highgate Hotels' On the Avenue may be on the way out. According to industry sources, Valenti and partners David and Arthur Emil are months behind on their rent and considering alternate concepts. Valenti had no comment.
But Jeffrey Chodorow, an investor in West Branch whose Fatty Crab is also in the hotel, told Grub Street that Valenti was indeed trying to renegotiate his lease. I suggested a concept change for the restaurant and I said I would invest in that, Chodorow explained. He also admitted an interest in taking over the space himself if West Branch closes. "Do I have people who have approached me about the space? Yes. But as an investor it would be unethical of me to pursue that until this deal has run its course. My first choice would be for Tom to stay there.''