The Origin Of New York's Delmonico's Steakhouse

We hope reports of its untimely demise are premature, but things are not looking good for Delmonico's, one of America's most influential restaurants. The venerable New York City steakhouse has been shuttered since 2020, due initially to the pandemic, but ongoing in light of a feud among current owners. In March 2021, a New York court upheld a previous decision ordering an equitable distribution of assets among the involved parties (via New York Business Divorce). A month later, the owners of the building where the restaurant is located issued an eviction notice, all but ensuring the end of Delmonico's — at least Delmonico's as we know it in the 21st century which, interestingly, has absolutely nothing to do with the original Delmonico's.

The Delmonico's currently under siege opened in 1999 (via Cook's Info). Located in New York's Financial District, the business had a good run until infighting among partners likely sealed its fate. It's one of several unrelated businesses to ride on the coattails of the original Delmonico's, a point of contention Delmonico family members attempted to address as early as 1929 when Oscar Tucci opened a copycat and named it Oscar's Delmonico's, per Spoiled NYC. In the end, a judge ruled the name Delmonico's had become part of the public domain, and according to Eater New York, paved the way for subsequent imitations, many of which — including Oscar's Delmonico's — attained notable success. Only the most recent, though, unabashedly attempted to create a questionable link to the original by advertising it was established in 1837 (via Cook's Info).

The one, and only, original Delmonico's

Long before New York City gained a reputation as a world-class dining destination, a good restaurant was difficult to find (via Gothamist). Established in 1827 by Giovanni and Pietro Del-Monico (later anglicized to John and Peter Delmonico), brothers who immigrated from Switzerland, the first Delmonico's was a far cry from the legendary restaurant it became during its almost-century-long run (via Steak Perfection). The original venue was a six-table café at 23 William Street. The restaurant had expanded into adjacent space and was offering an upscale dining experience by the time it was destroyed by fire in 1835. That's when the brothers built a swanky new restaurant at 56 Beaver Street, a stone's throw from the original site (via Daytonian in Manhattan).

With its impressive columns (reportedly salvaged from a Pompeiian villa) and stylish dining rooms, the new Delmonico's quickly caught the eye of New York City's fashionable elite, hosting elaborate balls and serving notable names like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, who celebrated his 70th birthday at the restaurant (via Eater New York).

An 1859 "New York Times" review — the newspaper's first restaurant review — reported, "No nobleman of England — no Marqui of ancienne noblesse — was ever better served or waited on in greater style than you will be in a private room at Delmonico's." The original Delmonico's also lays claim to the invention of such time-honored dishes as eggs Benedict (although, the Waldorf-Astoria may dispute that claim), baked Alaska, and Delmonico's steak (via Insider).

The beginning of another end?

Ownership passed almost seamlessly through multiple generations until 1904 when two siblings — Josephine Crist Delmonico Otard and Lorenzo Crist Delmonico — entered into a drawn-out legal battle. By 1911, rumors of financial instability were commonplace, but proved moot when Delmonico's re-upped its lease through 1927 (via Steak Perfection). Still, world events, including WWI, were beginning to take a toll on the business. In 1919, Lorenzo Delmonico filed a petition for bankruptcy. That same year, ownership of Delmonico's passed, for the first time in its history, to someone outside the Delmonico family. Timing couldn't have been worse for the new owner: Prohibition went into effect on the same day the sale closed, heralding the death knell for the original Delmonico's. The iconic restaurant closed on May 21, 1923.

A few years later, Oscar Tucci resurrected the restaurant name when he opened Oscar's Delmonico's. The enterprise was unrelated to the original restaurant. Nevertheless, it had a good run through 1977 (via Eater New York). It made another decent run of a return from 1981 to 1992, but then stayed vacant until it was reopened once more by the Bice Group in 1999.

Which brings us full circle to Ocinomled, the company that currently runs the iconic eatery. In April 2022, a representative for the current owners remained optimistic about reopening. "We're still hopeful that we will get a long-term lease from our current landlord," Natalia Grgurev told Eater New York. "We are trying to be super positive about moving forward. Just to be open again — that's all we want."

Will Delmonico's rise again? Time will tell.