It's Friday night and Seth Greenberg is in the men's room at Mistral, the French-inspired restaurant he opened nearly 18 years ago. He's looking at tile samples — not just any tile, hand-painted Moroccan tile — to replace what's on the wall.
"Elegant but timeless," he murmurs, wedged in the small space with the restaurant's GM Mark D'Alessandro and Petra Hausberger, an interior designer in python-skin shoes who looks pleased that the mustard-colored terra cotta square has met with approval.
Greenberg started in the nightlife business as a student at Boston University, but spends most of his time these days in Miami, Manhattan, or the Hamptons. Lately, he's been returning to Boston to assay Bastille Kitchen, his new French Bistro in Fort Point, and to check on progress at Serafina, the Italian restaurant he's opening in March in the space formerly occupied by Radius.
Greenberg once owned a couple of popular nightclubs in Boston, M-80 and Aria, but that was years ago. He was younger. Now newly married with a 3-month-old baby, Greenberg is still in the game, but he doesn't carouse like he once did.
"I spent 16 summers in Saint-Tropez having absolutely the best time," he says, a grin creasing his permanently tanned face. "I'm doing things that are more civilized now."
Tonight that means tweaking the aesthetic at Mistral. He tells D'Alessandro and Hausberger he wants the new tile in the bathrooms, different barstools, and an updated uniform for the wait staff, something light with an okra-colored tie and a black apron.
"Tight and tucked in," Greenberg says. "It'll step us up, but in a fun way."
The business portion of the evening doesn't last long. Greenberg likes to enjoy himself, and he and his wife, a striking Israeli model named Sasha, are meeting Scott Brown and his wife, Gail Huff, for dinner at Mistral. Greenberg has been friends with "Scotty" since college, when he promoted a "Boston Gigolo" party and Brown, then a student at Tufts, was the winner.
Greenberg, 53, and Sasha, 26, are staying at the Revere Hotel, where their son, Milan, is with a babysitter on loan from writer Ben Mezrich. Brown and Huff arrive with presents for the baby and an apology for his parents. They had to miss the bris because Brown was busy campaigning in New Hampshire for the US Senate.
"Did it go OK?" says Huff.
"Well, his penis is still there," says Greenberg with a chuckle.
A decade ago, the idea of Greenberg showing someone baby pictures would have been unimaginable, but as the black truffle macaroni arrives at the table, there he is gleefully playing a video of himself giving Milan a sponge bath.
"Look at him," he says, holding up his iPhone. "He loves when I give him a little bath."
Greenberg and Brown update each other. In addition to the two new Boston restaurants, Greenberg, who's a partner in Boston's Ames Hotel and owner of the trendy event space Espace in New York, says he's working on a new restaurant and club at Miami's Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour.
Brown says his duties as a Fox News contributor take him to New York often, where he and Huff have been going to see Broadway shows. (He gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up to "Beautiful — The Carole King Musical.") Brown says he's also getting more serious about playing guitar and cooking.
"I made a mean chili the other day," he says.
As Brown laments New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's stewardship of the city — "It's different, it's dirtier," he says — Greenberg is listening but also scanning the dining room. Boston has more upscale restaurant options than when Mistral opened, yet every table is full tonight. Patriots receiver Danny Amendola is sitting nearby with a young woman, but Greenberg doesn't approach.
Dinner winds down and Greenberg suggests the group have a nightcap at Bastille Kitchen. Brown didn't drive the green GMC Canyon that helped him win the Massachusetts Senate seat in 2010, so the two couples instead climb into Huff's 2004 Chrysler LeBaron.
Greenberg walks his guests through the dining room at Bastille Kitchen before heading downstairs to the dark, chalet-style bar where they take a corner table by the fireplace. He orders a Calvados and looks around. The demographic tonight seems to be well-scrubbed, 20-something paraprofessionals. Greenberg is satisfied.
"Honestly, I designed this so I could have something I could enjoy. Big nightclubs are designed for very young people." he says. "My best friend in Paris, Olivier Picasso — Pablo Picasso's grandson — we used to be in Saint-Tropez together. But that's over for me. I want to be able to sit and talk now."
And with that, Greeenberg leans in and whispers something to Sasha, who smiles sweetly.