1998 - 2003
Founder Gabriel Stulman spends several years working in local restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin while attending college there. During this time, he falls in love with the restaurant industry and meets many of the people who would later become part of the Happy Cooking family at local restaurants including Café Montmartre, Magnus, The Great Dane, and Paul’s Club.
Upon graduation from UW Madison, Gabriel moves to New York City and begins working in Manhattan restaurants. He works his way up from bartender to eventually opening The Little Owl and Market Table as a partner.
2009Gabriel along—with his wife, Gina, chef James McDuffee and partners Matt Kebbekus and Brian Bartels—open Joseph Leonard in a small corner space in the West Village.
January 2011Longtime West Village restaurateur Fedora Dorato approaches Gabriel and Gina to take over the space where she’d operated her eponymous bar and restaurant since 1952. Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly joins the team as Fedora’s chef, with Brian Bartels overseeing the cocktails.
Also in January 2011
The restaurant group’s nickname, “Little Wisco,” is coined in a profile of the growing company in The New York Times, which highlights the number of Wisconsonites working at the restaurants and their emphasis on Midwestern hospitality.
The group ventures outside of the West Village for the first time by opening Montmartre, a modern French bistro located in West Chelsea.
July 2014Chez Sardine becomes Bar Sardine, a bar and restaurant serving upscale pub food and whimsical craft cocktails.
November 2014Little Wisco officially transitions to the company name Happy Cooking Hospitality, meant to better reflect the company's mission and diverse makeup as it has grown since 2009.
Montmartre serves its last steak frites. Goodbye West Chelsea, thanks for all the good times!
Also in March 2016
Perla packs up and moves a few blocks from its first home on Minetta Lane to new digs at 234 West 4th St. The Happy Cooking restaurants are now all neighbors - the new Perla cafe, bar Sardine and Fedora are all within a block of each other, with Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey's Grocery across 7th Ave.