Delmonico's is the name of various New York City restaurants of varying duration, quality, and fame.
The original and most famous was operated by the Delmonico family at 2 South William Street in lower Manhattan during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it gained a reputation as one of the nation's top fine dining establishments. The birthplace of the universally imitated Delmonico steak, the restaurant is credited with being the first American restaurant to allow patrons to order from a menu à la carte, as opposed to table d’hôte. It is also claimed to be the first to employ a separate wine list.. The family also opened other restaurants under the name, operating up to four at a time and ultimately totaling 10 establishments by the time they departed the business in 1923.
In 1929, restaurateur Oscar Tucci opened a revived Delmonico's at 2 South William Street, which stayed in business until 1977. Other Delmonicos have operated in the space from 1981 to 1992 and since 1998.
The original Delmonico's opened in 1827 in a rented pastry shop at 23 William Street, and appeared in a list of restaurants in 1830. It was opened by the brothers John and Peter Delmonico, from Ticino, Switzerland. In 1831, they were joined by their nephew, Lorenzo Delmonico, who eventually became responsible for the restaurant's wine list and menu.
The brothers moved their restaurant several times before settling at 2 South William Street. When the building was opened on a grand scale in August 1837 after the Great Fire of New York, New Yorkers were told that the columns by the entrance had been imported from the ruins of Pompeii.
Expansion and closure
Beginning in the 1850s, the restaurant hosted the annual gathering of the New England Society of New York which featured many important speakers of the day. In 1860, Delmonico's provided the supper at the Grand Ball welcoming the Prince of Wales at the Academy of Music on East 14th Street. Supper was set out in a specially constructed room; the menu was French, and the pièces montées represented Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Great Eastern and Flora's Vase. The New York Times reported, "We may frankly say that we have never seen a public supper served in a more inapproachable fashion, with greater discretion, or upon a more luxurious scale". In 1862, the restaurant hired Charles Ranhofer, considered one of the greatest chefs of his day.
The business was so successful that from 1865 to 1888 it expanded to four restaurants of the same name. At various times, there were Delmonico's at ten locations. Delmonico's vacated the six-story Delmonico Building at Fifth Avenue and 26th Street in 1899. The edifice was sold to John B. Martin, owner of the Martin Hotel, in May 1901.
In 1919, Edward L.C. Robins purchased Delmonico's. Its grand location at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street closed in 1923 as a result of changing dining habits due to Prohibition. That location was the final incarnation of Delmonico's with continuity to the original.
Almost immediately after the closing of the last Delmonico's, a number of imitators opened "Delmonico's" restaurants. The Delmonico family attempted to retain exclusive rights to the name, but a court ruled that with the closing of the last restaurant the name had passed into the public domain.
|23 William Street||December 13, 1827 – December 16, 1835 (destroyed by fire)||“Delmonico & Brother, confectioners” small cafe and pastry shop|
|25 William Street||March, 1830 – December 16, 1835 (destroyed by fire)||“Delmonico & Brother, confectioners and Restaurant Francais”|
|76 Broad Street||February 23, 1836 – July 19, 1845, (destroyed by fire)|
|2 South William St.||August, 1837 – July 10, 1890. Rebuilt and reopened July 7, 1891, closed 1917||“Delmonico's Restaurant," informally called “The Citadel.”|
|25 Broadway||June 1, 1846 – 1856||The Delmonico Hotel|
|Chambers Street and Broadway||1856 – October 26, 1876|
|East 14th Street and 5th Avenue||April 9, 1862 – September 11, 1876|
|22 Broad Street||1865–1893|
|Fifth Avenue and 26th St.||September 11, 1876 – April 18, 1899||Lobster a la Newberg invented here in 1876|
|112–114 Broadway near Pine St.||October 26, 1876 – 1888|
|Fifth Avenue and 44th Street||November 15, 1897 – May 21, 1923||The final Delmonico-owned restaurant|
In 1929, Oscar Tucci opened a "Delmonico's" popularly called "Oscar's Delmonico's" at the former Delmonico's location at 2 South William Street (sometimes listed as 56 Beaver Street) in New York. The Tucci incarnation adopted the original menus and recipes, and became distinguished in its own right, continuing to attract prominent politicians and celebrities. It was open continuously until it closed in 1977.
In 1981, a new Delmonico's was opened at the location by Ed Huber, which operated until 1992.
The building was vacant until 1998, when the Bice Group acquired the property and again opened a Delmonico's, with Gian Pietro Branchi as executive chef. In 1999, the restaurant was sold to the Ocinomled partnership, which continues to operate Delmonico's at the South William Street location. The current website lists the address as 56 Beaver Street.
Lobster Newberg, and Delmonico Potatoes were invented at Delmonico's restaurant, and possibly Chicken à la King, but it was most famous for Delmonico steak. Eggs Benedict were also said to have originated at Delmonico’s, although others claim that dish as well. Baked Alaska's name was coined at Delmonico's as well.Manhattan clam chowder also first appeared in New York at Delmonico's.
Among the many well-known people who patronized Delmonico's are Jenny Lind, who, it was said, ate there after every show, Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Arthur Sullivan, "Diamond Jim" Brady, Lillian Russell, usually in the company of Diamond Jim, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, J.P. Morgan, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., Nikola Tesla, Edward VII, then-Prince of Wales, and Napoleon III of France. Journalist Jacob A. Riis claimed to be a patron of a different sort: in his book, The Making of an American, he mentioned that when he was down on his luck, a kindly French-speaking cook at Delmonico’s would pass him rolls through the basement window.
There's a scene that takes place in the restaurant in the 1947 film "Life With Father", probably recreating the William Street location.
In popular culture
Delmonico's restaurant features prominently in Caleb Carr's novel The Alienist. It is used in the Hello Dolly song Put on your Sunday Clothes. In the Broadway musical Onward Victoria the protagonist, Victoria Woodhull is denied seating at Delmonico's for not being accompanied by a man. The musical number "Unescorted Women" is sung by Charlie Delmonico and Woodhull.
A reference to Delmonicos in the film Dinner at Eight (film):
- Oliver, I've been back in New York
- four days. It's the first time I've been back in ten
- years. I'm lost already. Everything's changed. I'd
- die here. I belong to the Delmonico period. A table
- by the window, facing Fifth Avenue, with the flower
- boxes and the pink lamp shades and the string or-
- chestra. Oh, I don't know — willow plumes and In-
- verness capes, dry champagne and snow on the
- ground — God, they don't even have snow any more.
- Aaseng, Nathan (January 2001). Business Builders in Fast Food. The Oliver Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 1-881508-58-7.
- Hooker, Richard J (May 1981). "18 – Eating Out 1865–1900". Food and Drink in America: A History. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co. ISBN 0-672-52681-6.
- "History of Delmonico's Restaurant and business operations in New York".
- Sic: "irreproachable" may have been intended, unless a covert reference to the evening's crush was implied.
- Susan Bindig (1989), "New York Welcomes the Prince of Wales (1860)", Dance Chronicle 12 (.2): 234
- "Delmonico Building Leased". The New York Times. May 4, 1901. p. 3.
- Joe O'Connell (August 25, 2001). "History of Delmonico's Restaurant and business operations in New York".
- Lately Thomas (1967). Delmonico's – A Century of Splendor. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. pp. 333–336. LCCN 67025686.
- Frank J. Prial (November 29, 1987). "Out of the Cellar". The New York Times.
- Ed Huber. "Not in My Neighborhood: The owner of one of America's most historic restaurants faces a modern problem". Guideposts.
- "What's Cooking America: "History of Poultry Dishes: Chicken A' La King".
- Butler, Mabel C. (November 26, 1967), "Letters: Benedicts' Eggs", The New York Times Magazine: SM40, retrieved February 23, 2007
- "Talk of the Town", The New Yorker, December 19, 1942
- Claiborne, Craig (September 24, 1967), "American Classic: Eggs Benedict", The New York Times Magazine: 290, retrieved February 19, 2007
- Photograph included in the Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Pictures of the Times: A Century of Photography from the New York Times MoMA, No. 22 (Summer), 1996:10–130 illus. p. 13.