Ladies and gents,
I revisited the magnificent revival of Angels in America this past Wednesday, and during the dinner break I retired to a cozy booth at Bar Centrale. To be my age and experience Angels, is to step back into two different eras: the late mid-80’s when the play is set, and the early mid-nineties, when the play premiered. Though less than a decade separate the two, somehow the former feels like a century ago while the latter feels like just yesterday.
And it occurred to me, as I sipped a Diet Coke and nibbled on endive, that just downstairs was Orso, Joe Allen’s upscale Italian eatery, and it has survived both eras and remains as hot as ever. Yes, Orso celebrates its 35th Anniversary this year, and I’ve been frequenting since nearly the beginning. The best tables in those early days were reserved for the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Neil Simon, and Joel Grey. Nowadays, those same tables are likely to play host to Lorne Michaels, Brad Grey, and, well, Joel Grey.
I remember the first time I dined there I was the invited guest of Marty Richards. Marty was fuming because his regular table was occupied by Lauren Bacall. He offered to send her a $500 bottle of Bordeaux to move to a lesser four-top. Management declined to present the offer, and instead sent Marty that same bottle on the house. That was the first time I understood the importance of table hierarchy.
In more recent years, I spotted a very important and influential producing team wining and dining someone who looked like she couldn’t be old enough to drink the martinis they kept ordering for her. After doing some digging, I learned the girl was an advertising intern — still in college — who they had heard came from means. They were trying to convince her to sink some of mommy and daddy’s money into their latest venture. She declined, the show flopped, and she’s now married with kids and living in Long Island.
Orso was the site of the very first O&M Tony Party in 2008, which has become so synonymous with the Carlyle that most people assume the party actually started in 2009 — when it moved to the hotel’s Royal Suite. That first incarnation was thrown in honor of Faith Prince, who was nominated for her turn in A Catered Affair. She lost the category, but delivered her speech anyway — standing on a chair in the middle of the restaurant, in front of a rapt crowd. To gain entry to the exclusive bash you needed a speakeasy-style code phrase: “I have faith.”
The great debate among 46th Street denizens, like myself, is which restaurant serves the best calves liver: Orso or Joe Allen. I am, and always have been, a staunch Orso advocate, but Joe Allen’s dish has its fans. It may be urban legend, but there’s a famous story about a hedge fund manager and his socialite wife who nearly divorced when he insisted on going to Joe Allen when she wanted Orso. The solution? They dined separately, each enjoying the living of their choosing alone. Upon finishing their respective meals, they rode home together… in silence.
Only at Orso, kids. Only at Orso.
Tidbits from around town…
- Spotted hair guru and social media star Kyle Krieger prancing around Hell’s Kitchen with friends.
- Caught Anderson Cooper walking down 12th Street in gym clothes.
- Overheard 2018 Tony Honor recipient Sara Krulwich joking about all the make-up she’s had to wear to Tony events.
- And, finally, congrats to Jess Cagle and Matt Whitney, who got married last weekend in a gorgeous seaside ceremony in Southampton. More handsome, more charming, more in-love grooms, I’ve never seen!
As always, a toast of something to you and yours!