A rakish restaurateur and budding real estate tycoon, Cipriani manages a handful of restaurants, hotels and condos in town. He's also on probation for tax fraud.
It was Giuseppe's grandfather—who was also named Giuseppe—who started the family's dining empire when he opened Harry's Bar in Venice with partner Harry Pickering in 1931. The restaurant soon gained a near-mythical reputation for its celebrity clientele (Ernest Hemingway, Orson Wells, Humphrey Bogart), flawless service, Bellinis (a drink he invented), and pricey (but mediocre) food. In 1958 Giuseppe's son, Arrigo, took over Harry's Bar. Arrigo's son, Giuseppe, got started two decades later, unloading supplies from gondolas from the age of nine.
Arrigo first planted the Cipriani flag on American soil when he opened Harry Cipriani at the Sherry-Netherland on 59th Street in 1985. Giuseppe was dispatched to New York a few years later and expanded the family's presence with the opening of Cipriani Downtown in SoHo in 1996. Today Giuseppe oversees more than half a dozen properties as president of Cipriani USA. His father continues to serve as chief of the Luxembourg-based parent company Cipriani SA, where he manages the other family-run restaurants around the world in places like Italy, Hong Kong, and London.
When he isn't making appearances in courtrooms, Cipriani oversees a growing collection of venues, including Harry Cipriani, Cipriani Downtown, the event space Cipriani 42nd Street, Cipriani Dolci at Grand Central Station, and Cipriani Sutton. (The family also operates the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center and the private Rockefeller Club.) In 2006, Giuseppe branched out into the hotel business when he teamed up with real estate developer Steve Witkoff to open the Cipriani Club Residences at 55 Wall Street, making a splash thanks to highly-publicized purchases by a handful of boldfaced names like Harvey Weinstein, Mickey Rourke, Margherita Missoni, Bruce Willis, and Naomi Campbell. (Both Campbell and Rourke reportedly received steep discount in exchange for their help marketing the property.)
These days Cipriani's attention is focused on the Cipriani Ocean Resort and Club Residences in South Beach, which will include 600 luxury hotel condominiums and, of course, a Cipriani restaurant. But while Giuseppe's empire is growing leaps and bounds—and while the social set keeps his venues packed—it certainly isn't the food that keeps them coming back. Harry Cipriani was memorably excoriated by Frank Bruni in the Times in 2007: He described his zero-star dining experience as "highway robbery."
Cipriani has more than his share of legal issues the past few years. In May 2006, he dropped out of a $300 million project to develop Pier 57, reportedly to avoid giving a deposition to investigators about a $120,000 payment he allegedly made to a Gambino soldier to solve a labor problem at the Rainbow Room.
Several months later, Robert Morgenthau brought charges against Giuseppe and Arrigo, claiming they had falsified their tax returns since 1998. In a plea deal arranged by their lawyer, Stanley Arkin, Giuseppe pled guilty to a misdemeanor tax fraud charge and was sentenced to three years of probation; his father took a felony rap and accepted five years of probation, and the company agreed to pay $10 million in back taxes and penalties. But the deal allowed the father-son team to keep the company's liquor licenses, the loss of which would have spelled doom for their New York dining empire. Yet more problems continue to surface. In November 2007, a waitress at Harry Cipriani restaurant sued the company, charging the posh eatery had tolerated male staffers who made sexist remarks to female employees.
The suave ladies man has been connected to a number of notable women, including Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. (In April 2007, Ferguson bought a crash pad at the Cipriani Residences at 55 Wall Street, reportedly to be closer to her man.) Cipriani owns three units in the building; until he moved to 55 Wall, Cipriani lived at 500 Park Avenue, later selling the apartment to Naomi Campbell. He spends occasional vacations at his home in Punta del Esta, Uruguay.
Both of Giuseppe's sisters have been involved in the family business: Giovanna used to live in New York and manage one of their restaurants and Carmela penned a cookbook with recipes from Harry's Bar.
Cipriani's grandfather takes credit for inventing carpaccio, which he said he came up with after a diner said she was only permitted to eat uncooked meat. (He named it in honor of the Venetian painter because the colors of the dish reminded him of paintings by Carpaccio.) Giuseppe's grandfather also invented the Bellini—one third Peach juice and two thirds Prosecco—in an attempt to recreate the color in a painting by artist Giovanni Bellini.