May 15, 2007 | BITE: My Journal

Fiorello Fallback

Cafe Fiorello Phot Steven Richter
I wallow in veggies galore at Fiorello's antipasto bar.                            Photo: Steven Richter

    For twenty years,  Cafe Fiorello has been our fall-in before or after the movies or a night at Lincoln Center.  I remember the innocent days when the vegetable antipasto plate from the tempting display as you enter was just $14.95, and my guy’s steak-frites with arugula salad cost $25.  Our names are incised on a small brass plaque at the last booth at owner Shelly Fireman’s dad’s table.  Really embarrassing for a restaurant critic.  Shelly didn’t ask if he could, and I haven’t asked him to remove it.  I remember what fun it was to see columnist “Bob Considine’s booth” on a small brass plaque at “21” a hundred years ago.

    We go less often now that the 14 oz strip is $40 and the seven-item antipasto plate is $22.50, and the servers don’t pile it on the way they used to, and don’t throw on olives and a mozzarella ball as a gift at the end.  (Maybe I should slip him a couple of bucks…two dollars for olives and an ounce of mozzarella. Must I?) But sometimes we just crave Fiorello’s.  We do go – and I send friends there before and after Lincoln Center.  New Yorkers, kultur mavens, and tourists keep this place bustling – I couldn’t even get a table when two of us arrived after a movie without a reservation at 3 p.m. one Friday. Who are these affluent eaters who never look at the right side of the menu or grumble the way I do?

    Tonight my woman friend and I share Fiorello’s excellent Caesar. We forget to ask for anchovy and the waiter simply disappears for more than five minutes, so we can’t send him back for a couple of little fish and finish the last leaf anyway.  By then, even without the sadly absent olives and cheese, the antipasto plate divided in two is filling enough.  As we leave, I stop by the maitre d’s podium looking for the customary treat.  There it is, a big bowl of lacy chocolate. I reach for a big piece and accidently get two stuck together.  That’s okay.  When the chocolates are free and you eat them standing up, calories don‘t count.

1900 Broadway between 63 and 64th Streets. 212 595 5330

Providing a continuous lifeline to homebound elderly New Yorkers