Opened by two Swiss brothers in 1827 as a cafe serving “cakes, ices, and fine wines” and expanded in 1831 into a restaurant serving European-style cuisine, this luxury eatery pioneered a la carte ordering, wine lists, and multi-page menus.
By the turn of the century, several Delmonico’s operated in prime city neighborhoods: Union Square, Madison Square, and soon uptown on 44th Street.
But today, only one still stands—a circa-1890 beauty at the juncture of Beaver and South William Streets.
This Delmonico’s pays tribute to earlier incarnations by featuring dishes supposedly invented by the restaurant like Delmonico steak, eggs Benedict, and baked Alaska.
The building itself is also a homage to Delmonico’s history and the continent that inspired its cuisine.
How? Look at the two white pillars at the restaurant entrance. They were reportedly excavated from the ruins of Pompeii and brought to New York by one of the Delmonico brothers to flank the entrance of an earlier Delmonico’s on this site in the 1830s.
“On July 7, 1891, the new Delmonico’s Restaurant at South William Street opened to the public,” states one history of the restaurant.
“The new structure was eight stories tall and featured, for the first time, electric lights. It also kept several touches from the original structure, including the Pompeii pillars and cornice that framed the entrance.”
The Sun noted the pillars as well when describing the new 1891 building. “Out of the wreck of the old building the two white marble pillars . . . which Lorenzo imported from Pompeii have been retained and form part of the entrance. . . . “
Perhaps it’s just legend. But if the pillars really are from Pompeii, it would make them one of the oldest artifacts in the city.
[Top photo: theepochtimes; second image: MCNY 97.41.293; third photo: MCNY 220.127.116.1121; fourth photo: King’s Handbook of New York, 1892]