Donna, A Worker-Owned Cooperative In The West Village Will Open In May

The new iteration breathes new life into Donna, which closed its Williamsburg outpost in December 2020 after nearly a decade in business
Donna is Back! Now a Worker-Owned Collective, The West Village Pan-Latin Restaurant + Cocktail Bar Will Open on May 17th
Photo: Nicholas Ruiz

Donna, opening on May 17 is a worker-owned restaurant and cocktail bar located in the heart of the West Village. Donna offers a pan-Latin menu with Mediterranean influences as well as drawing inspiration from Filipino cuisine and tropical flavors.

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The new iteration breathes new life into Donna, which closed its Williamsburg outpost in December 2020 after nearly a decade in business.

Donna’s West Village location (7 Cornelia Street), provides a stylish, vibrant, and intimate drinking and dining experience that champions sustainability and alternative materials. The opening also marks an exciting moment of growth for the business, as the property integrates an equitable worker- ownership structure.

Donna’s original Williamsburg, Brooklyn location was created in 2011 by Founder Leif Young Huckman (donna, which means woman in Italian, is an homage to Leif’s mother, and the property was inspired by her home country of Honduras).

Following its many years of success, Donna Brooklyn closed in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The opening of the new West Village location will mark an exciting evolution for the team, as they unveil an even more diverse menu and a notable departure from the traditional hospitality hierarchy. In the new iteration, all workers are offered a pathway to ownership in the cooperative. Leif Young Huckman will remain an advisor
and supporter.

Designed to champion employee equity and overall sustainability, Donna serves as a model of progress for the hospitality industry.

Donna’s menu features a pan-Latin-inspired profile of small plates, tostadas, pupusas, entrées, and desserts. Sourcing from local purveyors and incorporating seasonal ingredients, the menu highlights traditional flavors and formats designed to facilitate sharing and conversation.

On the small plates menu, guests can enjoy offerings like Napa Cabbage Salad with chili cumin vinaigrette and candied pepitas, Smashed Potato with lime and coriander labne, Fried Cauliflower with chorizo spiced whipped feta, Guacamole, and more. Donna’s hearty and nourishing tostadas and pupusas include varieties like the Bean & Cheese Pupusa with sesame and cabbage, Braised Pork Pupusa with charred onion and alapeño labne, Braised Chicken Tostada with watermelon radish, and Avocado Tostada.

Shareable entrées include Braised Pork Shoulder with za’atar and roasted cabbage, Uli’s Rice & Beans with golden beets, marinated cucumber, and whipped feta, and Whole Roasted Fish with rice, beans, harissa and pickled vegetables. Donna’s desserts include Flan and other dessert selections.

Donna’s tropical-inspired cocktail menu includes offerings like the Tiny Sparrow Martini with Vietnamese Gin and Calamansi liqueur, the Umami Old Fashioned with shochu, Charanda Añejo rum, and mushroom, the Kapatid Old Fashioned with Filipino and overproof rums, coffee, and soy, the Lolo Avo with Charanda Añejo, Amontillado sherry, avocado, and coconut, the Blue Norseman with cachaça, aquavit, dill, and passionfruit, the crowd-favorite frozen Brancolada (Donna’s take on a Piña Colada), draft Palomas, and much more. Several cocktails, like the Sporty, Scary, Baby, Posh, and…, with jalapeño tequila, pineapple, ginger, and citrus, can also be served as mocktails.

Donna’s happy hour menu includes updated mezcal-focused cocktail offerings like the Mule, Margarita, Negroni, and Oaxacan Old Fashioned ($13 each), along with Micheladas ($7 each), wine ($10/glass), and draft beer ($5).

The design of Donna’s West Village location sets the tone for the future of hospitality while still acknowledging the past. Artists such as Sandu Darie, Pedro Alvarez, and Lygia Clark served as visual inspiration, emblematic of the constructivist art movements of Latin America in the 20th Century (specifically Cuban Concretism and Brazilian Neo-Concretism). Donna’s new worker-owned cooperative model also serves as a jumping-off point for its architectural style.

Designer Michael Groth collaborated with Moroccan artisan cooperative The Anou to develop custom wall hangings for the main dining area, which pair with natural wool rugs for harmonious acoustics. On the walls, limewash plaster in graphic geometric shapes brings rich texture and warmth to the space, while serving to passively regulate humidity and air quality for guests and workers.

Custom lighting throughout offers another marriage of old and new: pendants in the dining room utilize reclaimed embroidery hoops as the structure for woven paper shades. They were designed using a new computational algorithm, which adapted the woven forms to vintage hoops. Additionally, shades grown from mycelium adorn the pendants above the bar.

Dining tables and banquettes utilize reclaimed Douglas fir flooring and plywood stained with natural finishes; elsewhere, elements have been repurposed from the previous tenant of the space, including the wood floor and back-bar shelving. The bar tops are being fabricated by Brooklyn Stone and Tile, another worker-owned cooperative where the Donna team held their first in-person co-op meetings. The use of any new materials was limited to those that are natural and biodegradable, keeping in mind the holistic effects of resource extraction, human health and equity, and circular material cycles.

Lisa Hay

Lisa is a staff reporter for What Now Media Group. She covers new restaurant, retail, and real estate openings across all of our markets. A true foodie, this Air Force veteran has lived all over the world — from Aviano, Italy to Nairobi, Kenya — but her favorite spot is NOLA for its rich history, architecture, culture, and of course, its good eats.
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