Lost Restaurants of NYC: The Lobster

The Lobster

“There is no other like The Lobster!”

The year 1920 marked the beginning of the end of many New York City restaurants. By the end of the decade, the effects of Prohibition would force many restaurateurs to close their doors. But for Max Fuchs and Simon Linz, this decade marked the beginning of a successful business known simply as the Lobster Restaurant.

I discovered this restaurant through a book of matches that I picked up at an antique store in Lambertville, NJ, for less than a dollar. The matchbook reads, “The Lobster. Our policy of serving only FRESH IN SEASON SEAFOOD has not been changed in more than 35 years of continuous service to the public of New York.”

In the same neighborhood where grand “lobster palaces” flourished two decades earlier, Fuchs and Linz opened the Lobster Restaurant — at 145 West 45th St. Very little is written about The Lobster in the pages of the New York Times, but Rian James gives a solid two-page review in the 1930 edition of his Dining in New York.

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New York City at its Best: Marathon Sunday

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This month, I completed my second New York City Marathon. While many friends and family members congratulate me for what they see as an impressive accomplishment, I see the experience as a privilege.

Sure, it takes a lot of training to be able to run 26.2 miles in one stretch. I logged nearly 400 miles — and wore through a pair of shoes — in the four months leading up to the marathon.

But once training is out of the way, the marathon itself is a 26.2-mile-long block party, made possible not only by my training, but by the enthusiasm of the 2+ million New Yorkers who line the streets to cheer on total strangers by name and hand out water, bananas, bagels, saltine crackers, candy bars, pretzels and paper towels.

Because I had my name printed on my shirt, I heard “Go Vince, go Vince, go Vince!” for most of the five hours it took me to complete the course. I high-fived hundreds of spectators along the way. It’s no wonder I had a smile on my face as I ran through five boroughs, across five bridges and through countless neighborhoods, each with its own character.

This year, the winds gusted up to 40 mph, but the crowds were still out. And we runners were enthusiastic, too. Nothing can full convey the excitement of the starting line, but for an idea of it, check out this video I shot just moments after a cannon signaled the start for those of us in Wave 2.

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Staten Island Cooking Contest Grows in Diversity

#vegan table at #statenislandadvance #sicookbook taste off #statenisland #indianfood

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Though best known for its Italian American population, Staten Island is rapidly diversifying, something I saw firsthand last Saturday morning while covering the Staten Island Advance’s Taste-off at the Hilton Garden Inn on the island’s west shore.

The event brought together 33 finalists in an annual cooking competition that dates back 40 years. Judges, many of them chefs at local restaurants, sampled each of the culinary creations. The winner will be announced when the Advance publishes its annual cookbook on March 16.  Continue reading

Lost Restaurants of NYC: Enrico & Paglieri

Enrico and Paglieri, Greenwich Village

On a February evening 38 years ago this week, the possessions of a deceased 94-year-old restaurant owner lay strewn about a sidewalk on 11th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, in front of a group of row houses that now serve as a student center for The New School.

Though she left behind friends and surviving family, Josephine Paglieri’s furniture, clothing, books, photographs and letters waited for a city sanitation truck to haul them away. The New York Times described the scene in a Feb. 7, 1976, article.

Presently, a young hippie came by, grabbed one of her battered suitcases and began to stuff her old books into it. He hastily selected the few leather-bound ones…

Somebody else rummaged through Mrs. Paglieri’s worn dresses. “These are great for old clothes,” she said. Other people peered inside the drawers of Mrs. Paglieri’s plain wooden bureau.

That night a large sanitation truck rumbled up the street to pick up the goods. An old olive-green velvet couch crumbled under the tongs of the truck’s crusher.

The desk fell apart when the sanitationmen tried to pick it up. A lifetime of personal papers, letters, souvenirs and stationery swirled all over the sidewalk outside the restaurant that Mrs. Paglieri used to own.

The sanitationmen shoveled and swept, and threw them inside the truck. But one photograph remained on the street behind the vehicle. It was a picture of Mrs. Paglieri as a young girl, with her family.

The driver of the sanitation truck picked it up. He glanced at it while the desk was splintering under the weight of the garbage machine, and then tossed it inside with the other garbage. He hopped into the cab and roared off, leaving behind a few papers fluttering in the wind.

An old black-and-white postcard that I picked up at the Antiques Garage West 25th Street Market led me to this heartbreaking story.  Continue reading

New York Take-Home Meals—As Old As the Television

Down the street from me is an Italian grocery store, Pastosa Ravioli, that also sells ready-to-eat lasagna, meatballs, chicken cutlets, grilled vegetables, salads, etc. When I don’t feel like cooking dinner, a quick stop at Pastosa hits the spot. I take the food home, usually breaded chicken cutlets and broccoli rabe, warm it in the oven and without any real work on my part, I have an excellent meal in minutes.

I figured take-home meals were a modern phenomenon, certainly no older than my parents are. But perusing New York Times archives for unrelated information about an old Italian restaurant, I came across this:

Ready-to-serve foods that may be picked up on the way home, heated briefly if need be, and served without any further bother are apparently popular with a good percentage of the city’s housewives. It was in response to demand, at any rate, that Schrafft’s started such a service in its restaurant at 13 East Forty-second Street.

The date on this article? June 24, 1946.  Continue reading

Saveur Gives a Shout Out to Staten Island Food

Saveur magazine, Staten Island

Saveur magazine just published its 20th annual list of “the 100 most mind-bending, eye-opening, and palate-awakening dishes, drinks, ingredients, people, places, publications, and tools” it could find.

No. 74 on the list: “the most unexpectedly exciting part of New York City for culinary discoveries,” our own Staten Island:

Here, in the most bucolic of boroughs, Italian families tend kitchen gardens framed in squash blossoms, Mexican farmers till fields of papalo and epazote, and fishermen set crab pots and reel stripers from the surf. It’s a world of wild abundance where you can hike 25 miles along forested Greenbelt and then sate your hunger with some of the city’s most fabled pizza.

As the county with the country’s highest percentage of Italian Americans, we’re well-known for our Italian food, but as the article points out, we’re also home to large Mexican, Sri Lankan and Albanian communities—each of which has its own neighborhoods of markets and restaurants.

This tribute to the food of “New York’s most rapidly diversifying borough” gives shout-outs to Joe & Pat’s, Lee’s Tavern, Denino’s, Basilio Inn, Royal Crown Bakery and its neighbor Royal Cucina, Monte Albán Supermarket, Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn, Lakruwana and My Family Pizza.

I could add to the list a handful of other worthy restaurants, along with our St. George farmers’ market, which includes a vendor that grows all of its produce on the Decker Farm, New York City’s oldest continuously operated farm. It’s no secret that we Staten Islanders enjoy our food.

For those not familiar with Saveur, an unrelated entry in the same issue describes for me what makes the publication unique among other food magazines: The stories are “less about food than about cooking, and the people who cooked, and the context in which the food was cooked … Saveur wasn’t selling you anything—it was inviting you into a world.”

And now the editors have invited their readers to the unique world that is Staten Island.

What Does NYC Look Like on the West Coast?

Brooklyn Girl, San Diego

The hype of Brooklyn has reached San Diego, bringing to the neighborhood of Mission Hills a new representation of New York City.

This quiet neighborhood of historic homes and independent businesses sits a few miles above downtown San Diego. On frequent trips to Lefty’s Pizza, at Fort Stockton Drive and Goldfinch Street, I have always been intrigued by the restaurant across the street, Brooklyn Girl.

Who is trying to capitalize on the now-ubiquitous brand that is Brooklyn?  Continue reading