New York restaurants open and close constantly. It’s a signature of the city’s dining scene that few make the long-term cut. This week, one of the most significant restaurants to be in that club, The Four Seasons—which opened in 1959 and hosted President Kennedy, the Dalai Lama, Aretha Franklin and just about every important person in publishing and New York power-brokering in the latter half of the 20th century—will serve its last meal.
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of The Four Seasons in the development of New York as a city and a dining capital. Taking stock, former New York Times critic William Grimes writes:
Its closing will mark the end of an era. The Four Seasons, probably the most important New York restaurant of the 20th century, Americanized fine dining and set in motion many of the trends that still dominate restaurant culture in the United States.
Food historians now see it as the starting point for a series of trends that came to define American dining: the cult of freshness and organically grown ingredients; . . . the inventive interpretation of regional American dishes, which became known as New American cooking; the international blending of styles and ingredients, later described as fusion.
Grimes isn’t the only one to mourn the closure. New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo writes:
The dining palace that Jackie Onassis called “the cathedral” sustained the ideal of gilded Gotham through an age of graffiti and gunfire. The Four Seasons’ immutable grandeur and grace affirmed that the crumbling city — which lost 810,000 residents from 1950 to 1980 — was still worth fighting for. The Four Seasons dared to be at its best when the city was at its worst — when Times Square was a free-fire zone, Grand Central Terminal a squalid homeless camp and Central Park a dust bowl.
Diners have also been paying the restaurant a final visit:
Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder, who have overseen the restaurant for the past 21 years will auction off everything from inside the restaurant, down to the plates, on July 26. The pair have promised that they will reopen five minutes away, but no location’s been announced. In the meantime, Major Food Group, which runs Carbone, Dirty French and other palaces of extravagant dining, will take up residence late this year or early next year.
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