News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Tracy Connor, Daily News, New York
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 12, 2004 - Say "au revoir" to Lutece.
The New York landmark, where the ladies lunched, Woody Allen wooed Mia Farrow, and Richard Nixon held court, is closing its doors Saturday night.
"It's a decision I should have made a year-and-a-half ago," said Michael Weinstein, head of Ark Restaurants, which bought the famous French restaurant from chef Andre Soltner in 1994.
Launched in 1961, Lutece packed in foodies and celebrities for decades with its genteel service, elegant decor and four-star Old World menu.
In recent years, the city's sagging economy, less-than-stellar reviews for the restaurant and competition from trendier eateries emptied tables in the E. 50th St. townhouse.
Word that the paragon of fine dining is shutting down had the reservation phones ringing off the hook yesterday.
Regulars called in to book one last prix-fixe lunch, and New Yorkers who had never given the place a second thought before clamored for seatings.
Giuliana and Ted Pateas of Huntington, L.I., managed to snag a lunch reservation -- their first ever -- after learning the news.
"It's magnificent," Giuliana said after devouring an Alsatian onion tart, the signature dish when the restaurant opened 43 years ago.
"It's such a shame it's closing."
Maitre d' Katharina Capatos, who has worked the front desk for 14 years, said a couple who got married at Lutece 39 years ago called for a table. They got one.
"We are sad it came to this," Capatos said as she handled calls about the final dinner, a $125-per-person Valentine's Day extravaganza.
Capatos said the employees have no special plans for the last night.
After the last customers are ushered out the door, the close-knit staff will just gather around for a toast and some hugs.
"And to cry," she said. "I think we will probably cry."
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