Saturday, June 23, 2007

'Bits & Morsels'

Delis are declining. At one point in New York's dining history, there were more than 300 kosher style delis in New York. Now there are around 50, with a rapid closing rate. It’s hard to imagine New York without a decent deli. After all, the 'deli', was once considered the food of New York. [Time Out]

While Delis are declining, Latin food is on the rise. There are more Latin restaurants in New York than ever before. [Mouthing Off]

There is nothing like a good babka. Gertel’s Bakery on Hester Street, which has been in business since 1914, closed this week. This is sad news because like delis, old fashioned bakeries are also on the decline. If anyone knows of a great bakery that makes baked goods comparable to Gertel’s, send me an e-mail. [Grub Street]

McDonald’s vs. Nobu.
Who would have thought that McDonald’s would be more sustainable than Nobu? McDonald’s sources its fish from an Alaskan Fishery that is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. has an interview with author Charles Glover. His new book, End of the Line, discusses the effects of over fishing on our environment. It’s a fascinating book, which will change the way you see fish. []

Mario Wainer, the maître d' at Le Cirque, has been with the restaurant since its 25 years at the 65th and Park location. Some of the most famous people in the world, not to mention the rich and the powerful, have been his customers, all of whom admire him for his gentle nature, patience, and kindness.

maître d' Mario Wainer
How do you like the new location?

I love the new location. It’s going back to our roots a little bit. We were on 65th and park for 25 years, the original Le Cirque. So, it’s closer to the original location. We were in the Palace for 8 years and now we are closer to a lot of the people that come here ... a lot of our regular customers are within a 10-block radius of here, so I am very happy.

What time do you come in everyday?

10 am.

When do you leave?

Usually when the last person leaves, around midnight or 12:30.

That’s a long day.

If you like what you do then it’s ok. The best thing about a job is doing something that you enjoy.

When you get a bad review do you get upset?

Well we try to learn from what they say. If there are mistakes, then the first thing we do is try to correct them.

I am sure you make very few mistakes.

No, everybody makes mistakes. We try to learn from them and do better everyday. That’s the most important thing. To look at it in a constructive way and then to correct those mistakes ... and try to make people happy. It’s a simple business. The main thing is to make the customer happy.

Do you always have a table saved if the president should walk in last minute?

We would make arrangements of course, but not only for the President. We try to take care of our customers all the time. If we have to add tables then we will. That’s my mentality. It doesn’t matter who it is, we always try to help our customers, to satisfy them. That’s how we gain a new customer that we didn’t have before.

Le Cirque's exterior.
The bar.
The main dining room.
What’s your favorite restaurant?

That’s a hard one. There are many good restaurants in New York. New York is the city for restaurants.

I think Le Cirque has a lot to do with that.

When Le Cirque first opened, there were not as many restaurant as there are now. Le Cirque was definitely one of the first top restaurants.

When you have a night off where do you like to go?

I like to go to simple places.

What’s your favorite dinner to have?

Definitely some good wine, that’s very important, and some simple food.

Do you like to cook?

I love to cook. Once in while I stay home and cook. If we stay home I am the one that’s doing the cooking.

Find me someone like you that’s single and my age. You are always impeccably dressed. Where are your ties and suits from?

I have a lot of ties from Hermes and Ferragamo. They are my favorite. My suits are all Italian-made.

What is your favorite dish on the menu?

The roasted chicken for two. We roast the whole chicken and serve it with mashed potatoes. That’s one of the best dishes. It’s simple food but really great. You can’t beat it. It’s not fancy, but it’s done the right way. It’s home style cooking at its best.

Have you been to Rao’s?


What do you think of it?

It’s good but a little gimmicky. There are just 12 tables. If you have a table for a Monday you can only go every Monday. That’s how they sell the tables. If you can’t go, you give the table to a friend. It’s a fun restaurant.

Who would you love to have dine here?

We have had all the presidents here. I don’t think President Bush has been here yet. We really would like to have everyone here. People that enjoy good food and ambiance. That’s the best type of customer.

When a customer dies do you mourn them?

Of course. We send a note right away and try to contact the family.

Do you think Bloomberg will run for president?

That’s what I heard today. Everyone thinks he will be running, but I don’t know.

That will be great for Le Cirque because it’s [Le Cirque] located in the Bloomberg building

I wish him the best.

Does he come here a lot?


What days are the busiest days of the week?

Usually Tuesday to Thursdays. Especially in the summer when a lot of people go away for the weekend. In September, when everyone is back, each day is different.

What’s the first thing you do when you come here in the morning?

I check the tables and call everybody to confirm their reservations.

Mario, you are the heart and soul of Le Cirque and I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.

Till we eat again,

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