“Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Uh, no, make that: He, he… romanticized it all out of proportion. Now… to him… no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin… ”
Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979)
Fifth Avenue glittered on October 24th as I approached the green awning of The Pierre Hotel, newly emblazened with the word “Sirio.” New York City seemed frozen in time, exactly the way I imagined it would be when, transfixed, I watched Woody Allen’s Manhattan 30 years ago.
Last week legendary restaurateur Sirio Maccioni (Le Cirque, NYC) opened his newest restaurant: Sirio Ristorante at the Pierre, a grand Taj Hotel. Sirio is intimate, swank, European. The press release touts a design that “recalls… the casual elegance of Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” And it does.
In order to accommodate the more than 800 attendees, the opening was held in the majestic Cotillion Room, whose windows open to Central Park. Dressed in a gold jacket, Sirio held court on a red carpet, flanked by photographers and celebrities. I sat at a table on an upper level, with a view of the sea of black suits and dresses; the lovely Sabrina Wender and her Jazz Group played classic swing music – loud enough to enjoy, quiet enough that conversations could flow.
All of my photos from the night have a surreal orange glow, somehow appropriate since the highlights of my night were both bathed in orange. I sat with my friend, legendary food icon and James Beard Award-Winner Betty Fussell, who was characteristically regal in an orange silk jacket. Betty was passionate and inspiring as always, and what better companion at this opening than the New York goddess of food.
Legendary Food Icon and James Beard Award-Winner Betty Fussell
We drank prosecco and enjoyed the rare and old-fashioned service I look forward to when dining at one of Sirio’s restaurants.
Chef Filippo Gozzoli, an Italian chef with international acclaim, served an assortment of Italian dishes including crispy squash croquettes, and simple tomato bruschetta.
I can still taste the culinary highlight of the night: Risotto alla Milanese, hot from Sirio‘s kitchen- beyond sublime and easily the best risotto I have ever tasted. The arborio rice was cooked to al dente perfection, creamy and indescribably flavorful. Saffron not only added an earthy taste, but a warm inviting color.
Today, a week after Hurricane Sandy’s descent on New York, the memory of the opening of Sirio Ristorante is not in sharp contrast to the images of destruction- but rather harmoniously blends with my vision and experience of this big bold city that we love. A city that in color, in black and white, at the Pierre Hotel or on Avenue C city glitters and pulsates with life and beauty.