Through his Myriad Restaurant Group, Nieporent owns half a dozen notable restaurants including New York fixtures like Tribeca Grill and Nobu.
Nieporent grew up exposed to the industry: His father was an attorney for the New York State Liquor Authority. (His mother, meanwhile, was 1940s radio star Sybil Trent.) After attending Cornell's hotel school, Nieporent took jobs at restaurants like Tavern on the Green, La Perigord, and La Grenouille before striking out on his own in 1985 with Montrachet, a rebelliously casual French eatery in a then-desolate pocket of Tribeca. With David Bouley behind the stove, the restaurant nabbed three stars from the Times, quickly became a neighborhood institution, and pioneered a kind of nonchalant elegance that would become standard in downtown dining.
Nieporent moved on to his next restaurant in 1990 when he teamed up with Robert De Niro—who had become a devotee of Montrachet—to open the Tribeca Grill. Four years later, the duo lured sushi chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa to New York and opened the now-legendary Nobu in a a David Rockwell-designed space on Hudson Street.
Today, Nieporent's portfolio of restaurant holdings is a large one: There's Nobu Next Door, Midtown's Nobu 57, Nobu London, Centrico, Mai House, Corton, and Rubicon in San Francisco, as well as the wine store Crush. His right-hand at the Myriad Restaurant Group is his brother, Tracy Nieporent, who heads up marketing and public relations.
Nieporent's restaurants have always attracted big names, both as investors and chefs. Tribeca Grill partners include Bill Murray, Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Russell Simmons, and Christopher Walken. Nieporent's Rubicon counts Robin Williams and Francis Ford Coppola as co-owners. Plenty of culinary hotshots have passed through Nieporent's kitchens, including David Burke, Rocco DiSpirito, Terrance Brennan, and David Bouley, who walked out on the restaurateur after his three-star Times review, earning the enmity of Nieporent for years.
One of the first restaurateurs to put Tribeca on the culinary map—his first lease for Montrachet at 239 Broadway cost him just $1,200 a month—Nieporent remains a neighborhood institution. But not all of his venues in the area—or relationships in the biz—have been successes. Zeppole, an Italian restaurant on Franklin Street, shuttered in the late '90s, as did the Middle Eastern spot Layla, which was hit hard after Sept. 11th. His relationship with Jerry Della Femina, with whom he teamed up to open East Hampton's Della Femina and, later, East Hampton Point, fell apart in the mid-'90s after a financial dispute. (Nieporent sold his stake back to the legendary ad exec.) Lately he's had a similarly strained relationship with Robert De Niro; though the two partnered on a series of Nobu openings in the late '90s, these days they rarely speak.
In his first venture outside the world of food and drink, Nieporent is teaming up with billionaire Richard Branson on the Virgin Spa at Natirar in Peapack, NJ.
It's pronounced "Knee-POUR-rent."
During his salad days, Nieporent was lean enough to run marathons. (He says he first took note of Tribeca when he jogged through the nabe in preparation for the 1983 New York Marathon.) By 2001, he'd inflated to 335 pounds and had been diagnosed with morbid obesity and coronary disease. He subsequently went on a much-publicized diet and shaved off 125 pounds, although he's put back on much of the weight since then.
Nieporent married his wife Ann in 1986. They have two kids—Andrew, a college student, and Gabrielle, who's in high school—and two cocker spaniels named Jackson and Chloe. Nieporent doesn't live in the neighborhood he so famously turned into a culinary destination. He occupies a home in Ridgewood, NJ that he commutes to a silver-colored, chauffeur-driven BMW. He says his preferred room in the house is his wood-lined sauna.
Nieporent had a tiny part in Simply Irresistible. Art imitated life, almost: He played a restaurant critic.