The restaurant Gino will close its doors forever this Saturday, ending a 65-year run of serving up Italian red sauce cuisine against a similarly colored wallpaper backdrop festooned with over three hundred zebras. The restaurant is unable to cope with a rent hike and union demands for increased health insurance. The space is to become a cupcake shop: the dining fad of 1945 ceding to that of 2010.
Truth be told, the menu, which remained virtually unchanged through out the restaurants life, was an anachronism. While it might have been innovative back in the 1940s, the restaurant survived on familiarity and nostalgia and the patronage of a steady, albeit dwindling, cadre of regulars.
Still, there was something reassuring about the seeming permanence of the menu. It was a touchstone to New York's past; one could literally taste history in every bite. I first visited the mid-1980s with my father who had eaten there as a child in the 1940s. When he mentioned this to the Maître d', his response was "I remember you."
I last visited in December when the restaurant's demise was a rumor but not a certainty. The food and service were just as they were on my first visit—but whereas I had to line up and wait for 45 minutes the first time (as Gino took no reservations), the room was now mostly empty. As the Italian proverb says: Ogni bel gioco dura poco. (Idiomatic translation: all good things come to an end.)
One last look through the restaurant, in the slideshow above.
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