The Four Seasons said goodbye to its East 52nd Street location on Thursday, July 14th after 57 years in existence. The cocktail party which began at 6:30 PM in the Pool Room was chaotic with hundreds of people filing in to pay their last respects to this iconic institution and notorious owners Julian Niccolini and Alex Von Bidder.
|Owner Julian Niccolini|
I was privileged to speak to Niccolini earlier in the day and he expressed his fury at landlord Aby Rosen who kicked him out without any regard for his 130 jobless employees. Whether the Four Seasons will reconvene is questionable; however, one thing is for sure-this gastronomy giant will never be replicated.
The party was exciting, yet bittersweet, with patrons expressing sadness at this monumental loss. Tom Hess whose mother worked in the Seagram building in 1960 said he had his first croissant there in 1960 and commented that, “Aby Rosen doesn’t understand New York-nobody will ever step foot in this restaurant again.”
|Somers Farkas, Margo & John Catsimatidis|
Businessman John Catsimatidis recalled taking over the entire restaurant for his son’s baptizing more than 20 years ago. The lachrymose crowd included billionaire businessmen: Leonard Lauder, Michael Steinhardt, Mort Zuckerman and Edgar Bronfman Jr.
|Restaurateurs Drew Nieporent and Danny Meyer, Peter & Audrey Eliott, Buzzy O’Keefe|
There were legendary restaurateurs Drew Nieporent, Danny Meyer and food critic Ruth Reichl mingling with the likes of David Dinkins, Ray Kelly, Martha Stewart and lawyer David Boies.
|Left to right Marie Nightingale, Ray And Veronica Kelly,
David Dinkins and Augustine Buffa
As the crowds streamed in, the heat index rose and more than a few patrons jumped into the famous pool as photographers snapped away feverishly. The antiquated decor of the Four Seasons with its square shaped pool and trees surrounded by beige shades is a perfect antidote to the bustling Midtown neighborhood which surrounds it-reminiscent of the Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. era-a time when terrorism was nonexistent. This oasis, which was the stomping ground for the elite, housed mega business deals that were often closed during lunchtime hours.
|Judy Glickman, Michael & Judy Steinhardt with Leonard Lauder|
Yet it is hard to comprehend why this restaurant has remained so popular for the past 30 years when restaurants in the New York landscape disappear quicker than the name Paris Hilton. The secret behind its success might well be attributed to one man named Julian Niccolini who has been described as the “madcap maitre d’ of New York’s most powerful lunchroom” and whose charming irreverence and discerning wine palate has fascinated the glitterati for years.
|Brian and Joanna Fisher with Amy Fine Collins|
Tonight he stood grinning at the front of the entrance greeting guests with a pink jacket and a roguish smile. Other restaurateurs whose empire was disappearing would be shrinking with misery, yet he stood there smiling with the joyfulness of a child. That kind of resilience and life force has infused the Four Seasons for the past 30 years and will be sorely missed in the New York landscape for years to come. Losing Bill Cunningham and the Four Seasons in one month leaves a gaping hole in the City of New York that can never really be filled.