ABOVE’S ROOFTOP BALLROOM OFFERS A SPECTACULAR BACKDROP FOR WEDDINGS AND OTHER EVENTS
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
Richard and Lois Nicotra always wanted to build a wedding venue that could compete with the best and most exclusive destinations in New Jersey and Manhattan. And since 2001, they have been doing just that keeping Staten Island brides and their wedding parties in the borough by offering sweeping views and traditional elegance at Nicotra’s Ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn.
But as wedding trends changed and more brides were looking for sleek and contemporary reception spaces with a modern feel, the Nicotras decided they wanted to add a cutting edge option to the tri state area’s ballroom roster. So, in 2013, they built a 10 story tower with panoramic views on the rooftop of the inn. They called the space Above.
“We worked for three years developing this new event space, taking our staff twice to Las Vegas to look at the best of the best in terms of design,” Richard Nicotra noted. “We also sent a team to South Beach, Miami, and had another go to Italy and spend a week in the San Marzano Valley all in the name of research to find the best in both design and food.”
Twenty foot floor to ceiling windows, a white Italian marble dance floor, and a custom light installation with 4,000 Swarovski crystals were the result.
“We didn’t want to go with the hanging chandelier and red velvet heaviness that’s typical of so many spaces,” Nicotra said. Instead, they featured a single slab Carrera marble candle wall with built in niches, Venetian glass infused wallpaper, three soft seating areas, and an illuminated onyx bar with an 18 foot silver leaf frame. Double two story staircase murals depicting Parisian rooftops complement the contemporary layout. There’s also a custom slate facade, a modern glass entrance, and an outdoor gazebo designed by a Brooklyn artist. The space offers stunning views of Staten Island’s four bridges, and the Manhattan skyline rises in the distance.
“I think one of the best accolades we’ve received so far is that we are getting Manhattan and New Jersey brides coming here to our venue, and that’s something that never happened before,” said Nicotra. “We’ve always lost Staten Island brides to New Jersey, but now they are coming here. That’s exactly what we set out to accomplish.”
Weddings and other formal functions are still a mainstay at Nicotra’s Ballroom, and the focus there remains traditional. The Above Ballroom, on the other hand, takes a more contemporary spin.
“Nicotra’s Ballroom is for a bride who wants a traditional cocktail hour and a traditional wedding,” Nicotra said. “At an Above cocktail hour, you won’t find a lot of chafing dishes most of the food is passed. Other details are different, too. We have stemless glassware, square tables, and upscale china and silverware modeled after the silverware we saw when we visited Paris. But that’s what Above is about. The theme focuses on Paris rooftops, and it’s an idea that resonates throughout.”
The menu at Above is modern as well. Its open kitchen generates small plates that echo conventional wedding dishes, though with their own twist. Instead of a traditional cut of filet mignon with a barolo wine sauce, for example, there might be a double cut sirloin in a zinfandel glaze. For appetizers and tapas, there’s seared tuna with a wasabi drizzle, Maryland crab cakes with a chipotle remoulade, Creole shrimp with creamy grits, and peanut crusted calamari. A wood fired oven pumps out calzone and flatbread pizzettes, while entrees like boneless Tuscan style suckling pig and rosemary and garlic crusted rack of lamb complete the menu. A selection of “dessert bites” includes crème brulee spoons, Nutella banana pizza, s’mores, and chocolate milkshake shots.
“It’s just not your typical wedding menu,” Nicotra said with a smile.
The average wedding at Above generally entertains about 200 guests, but the venue can accommodate up to three hundred and twenty five. Soft seating around the ballroom area allows for a different type of ambience, too; instead of being confined to a table of 10, guests are free to mingle throughout the space. A private dining room is also available for smaller affairs of 35 to 65 guests, and the Above rooftop with heated draped cabanas and corner fire pit seating is available both during and after any catered affair. There’s an additional and unexpected perk, too: a complimentary suite for the bride and groom on their wedding night to ensure the start of a memorable honeymoon.
“We also have filled our property with art and flowers,” said Nicotra, “including the iconic 40 foot ‘LOVE’ sculpture [by landscape architect and environmental designer, Patrick Weisel] and, most recently, a 22 foot ‘XOXOX’ sculpture on the Great Lawn, giving our wedding couples even more picture perfect moments and creating a unique destination wedding right over the bridge on Staten Island.”
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