Just off Madison Avenue on 66th Street in Manhattan, you'll find an elegant white townhouse, home of Rosario Acquista's new namesake salon. While the exterior says Notting Hill, the interior is a bit more Continental. There are the clean Italian lines of the zebrawood reception desk—its honey-and brown-colored stripes reminded Acquista of highlights. Twelve striking salon chairs are reflected in sparkling beveled mirrors over dark-brown wenge cabinets that lend a faintly Viennese touch to the salon. Pure Acquista is the delicious cappuccino or chilled glass of San Pelligrino served on a pearl-inlaid tray alongside a dainty plate of hazelnut biscotti. This is a place to relax and slow down.
"You are, essentially, in Europe," says Acquista, who honed his skills at some of the best and biggest salons in the world, including LaCoupe, Vidal Sassoon, Carita (in Paris) and, most recently, Kim Lepine, where he was artistic director. "I wanted a place that was simple and elegant, but also warm and comfortable," he says.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP: The styling area; a complimentary cappuccino and biscotti; the hair color area with its Rollerballs from Takara Belmont poised to process color more efficiently
From the moment a client sits in one of the top-of-the-line Japanese hydraulic shampoo chairs to when she changes back into her street clothes in the dressing room, with its mohair curtains backed with cashmere, she feels pampered. "I like the atmosphere of intimacy here," says Acquista. "It's calm, so you can actually talk."
Acquista takes great pains to listen to his clients, and to ask them how they go about their day and where they live. The same haircut, no matter how precise, will not look the same on a soccer mom living in Greenwich, CT, as it will on an art director living in a loft in TriBeCa. Acquista keeps on top of current trends, but he is best known for his keen sense of style and his ability to create individualized looks. That's because he not only listens to his clients but also looks at their faces. Only then does he begin sculpting a silhouette that will suit them in every way.
When it comes to technical know-how, Acquista is one of the best. He spent his early years as a stylist for some of the most artistically demanding fashion designers in history, including Geoffrey Beene, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Missoni and Christian Dior. "Of course, I watch what the designers of the day are doing, and to some degree, their clothes determine the trends for a season or so," he says. "But mostly, I get my ideas from other sources, like a spiky bathing cap in a department store window display, the long hair of a woman in a painting by Gauguin or my six-year-old daughter's perfect highlights, which are all natural, of course."
With his new salon, Acquista has crafted an environment that seamlessly matches his warmth, understated sense of personal style and attention to detail. "I have put my heart and soul into creating a jewel box," he says, "a place where you can relax and feel beautiful, a refuge."