New York Post
Friday night “parties” with deejays at Le Cirque. Bare tabletops at Allegretti. What next — a splash in the pool at the Four Seasons?
The infantilization of dining in the name of “informality” has been going on for years. But the tablecloth-yanking at Allegretti on West 22nd Street was the last straw. Once, crisp white linen covered the tables and softened the noise. Their Web site still shows tablecloths.
But they sneaked them away like thieves in the night, and the soft murmur that lent the pretty dining room magic has swelled to a racket. Alain Allegretti’s Provencal-inspired cooking is still special and the service is still gracious. But the place as a whole is less special and less gracious than it was.
What’s the big idea? Allegretti says he “personally” doesn’t like it: “From the bottom of my heart, I’m a tablecloth person. But I need to be a businessman.” He says bare tables signal diners that they “can have just pasta and a glass of wine” rather than ordering three courses, and the result has been a trade-off — smaller average checks but greater volume.
I’m glad it works for them. But, as my wife cheerfully put it: “When I spend $32 for an entree, I want a tablecloth.” And I don’t want an ambient din from a deejay even in a hamburger joint.
Creeping casualization has turned too many eateries into clublike zoos and dumbed down others with tacky “grazing” menus, overgrown lounges and unbearable noise.
A consultant recently tried convincing my friends who own a thriving East Village spot to dim the lights and pump in disco music. Fortunately, they didn’t buy into the blog-driven baloney that people don’t want “fine dining” anymore. Burn the tablecloths! Replace entrees with truckloads of small plates!
Le Cirque’s Mauro Maccioni told the Times the new, weekly “invitation-only” parties in the under-utilized lounge would “in no way compromise” the Le Cirque “brand.” Ooookay.
Too many owners swallowed the snake oil from Web sites that seem written by children. They should wake up to the fact that the hottest expensive, new or rejuvenated places — think Corton, Marea and Eleven Madison Park — drew firm lines in the sand against going too casual.