Posts Tagged ‘Delmonico’s’

A downtown restaurant with pillars from Pompeii

February 17, 2017

delmonicostheepochtimesYou could say that New York’s pricey restaurant culture all started with Delmonico’s.

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.

delmonicosmenu1880sBut 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.

delmonicosstaff931-1-18421“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.”

delmonicos1890sThe 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; fourth photo: King’s Handbook of New York, 1892]

Congrats to the 1889 Yale grads from New York

June 23, 2016

It’s graduation season, so meet the 11 native New Yorkers in Yale University’s class of 1889. They’re posing at a dinner thrown in their honor at fancy restaurant Delmonico’s.


Born after the Civil War, these grads grew up in a fast-growing Gilded Age city. In four years, they’ll be facing the devastating economy of the Panic of 1893.

Apparently they were all jocks, as the dinner was “in commemoration of the victories won in recent years in rowing, base-ball, foot-ball and other athletic contests,” according to the caption.

New York’s first restaurant—and celebrity chef

July 14, 2009

When Delmonico’s restaurant opened on William Street in 1837, New Yorkers had never experienced anything like it: a fine dining establishment that let customers order from an extensive menu. The prevailing custom at the time at taverns and inns was for patrons to eat whatever the cook decided to whip up that day. Delmonico’s also pioneered the separate wine list and ladies dining area.

DelmonicosranhoferAfter relocating several times in lower Manhattan, the restaurant moved to 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. Here, the new head chef, French-born Charles Ranhofer, solidified his rep as one of the best chefs in the country. He invented many still-popular dishes, like lobster Newberg and baked Alaska. 

 He also popularized the avocado (then known as the “alligator pear”) and named dishes after A-listers of the day, like Veal Pie a la Dickens and Sarah potatoes, for actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Ranhofer collected all of his recipes and published them in his 1894 cookbook, The Epicurean, which ran one thousand pages. No doubt he would be a Food Network star if he were running a kitchen today.


Delmonico’s lasted until 1923, a casualty of Prohibition. But a quarter century before that, the restaurant hosted a dinner for Mark Twain, at left.