Monday, October 10, 2022. Sunny weather over the weekend in New York. With Autumn temps going up to the low 60s and down into the low 50s after dark; a sweater, a jacket. That time of the year.
The city seemed quieter this past weekend. I judge by the number of parking spots available on residential streets. In summertime, all blocks have something available from Thursday through Monday with people going out of town. I took that to mean there are a lot of people who still get out of town over the weekend while the weather’s fair.
However, there was a main traffic snarl last Thursday night. Alex Hitz was having a book signing of his new book over at Dennis Basso’s boutique on Madison Avenue and 69th Street. After the event, Alex was hosting a dinner upstairs at the new private dining room at Sette Mezzo.
My plan was to go to both by 7:30 at Dennis Basso, and then walk the two blocks over to Sette. It’s generally a ten-minute ride at that time of the day, either by cab or car from my apartment Usually on a Thursday night after 7, the city traffic has begun to lighten up and move along.
However, this past Thursday we had another visit from President Biden. He was attending a dinner party hosted by one of the Murdoch sons who lives here in New York in the same neighborhood. A dinner party on a Thursday night here in New York is not unusual. However, I didn’t know any of this when I got into my car to begin my evening.
Traffic moved very quickly until I hit the neighborhood to look for a parking place. I had no idea Biden was coming to town, let alone the same neighborhood. Because of that the entire area was re-routed — bumper-to-bumper — and crawling along being detoured for 15 blocks, a major section of the Upper East Side, and two cops on every street corner along the avenues from East 79th to East 63rd Streets from Lexington, Park and Madison Avenues. All so that the President would be secure. Ground Zero. This has been going on for the last few Presidencies. It’s usually brief — a matter of hours.
I never got to Dennis Basso’s. Alex’s dinner was called for 8 p.m. I finally got a space in the garage of an apartment around the corner from Sette, and went directly to the restaurant, arriving a few minutes after 8. There were a few also arriving from the book signing.
The news from the reception was they ran out of books!! The publisher supplied Alex but that was all they had. He sold all 200 copies of Occasions to Celebrate: Cooking and Entertaining with Style. That’s a big number for a book signing. Evidently they aren’t/weren’t in the stores yet. But hearing about the signing over at Dennis Basso’s, it sounds like a hit. And looked like one, too.
I’ve known Alex since he first came to New York from Atlanta to live. This was in the late ’90s before the turn of the century. I met him through Johnny Galliher who was a friend of his mother’s and was introducing him around. He had image of a society boy, a young heir but with ambition and what is called certainty of purpose. He’s a peripatetic fellow who divides his times between New York, London, Paris, L.A., Atlanta and all points east and west.
In the meantime, he’s enterprising and always working. While may look like a young gentleman of leisure, and he likes all that. But he’s looking ahead all the time. And enjoying it. He’d been in the food business in Atlanta, with his own restaurant. He’s avoided that risk here in New York, but he’s written at least 2 major cookbooks that are accompanied by the entire process of entertaining at home and doing it well enough for your own satisfaction. Alex’s style is a kind of classic, updated to the rocket age. He’s an entrepreneur.
He was just about the last arriving at the dinner Thursday night. And by that time this new dining room was rockin’ with 65 guests, all personally invited by the author/host who is a frequent guest at the restaurant. The guest list included people from Hollywood — Candy Spelling and her daughter Tori Spelling; from Paris — Caroline Whitman (who also resides in Texas part of the year).
Also among the guests were Ellen Niven, Bettina Zilka, Blaine Trumps and Steve Simon, Amy Fine Collns, Boaz Mazor, Martina Rush, Bruce Jill Roosevelt, Adrienne and Ghighi Vittadini, Geoffrey Bradfield, Ashley McDermott, Richard Mishaan, Carole and Earl Mack, Prince Dimitri, Lisa Jackson, Caroline Dean, Danielle Rollins, Cheesy Breen, Lisa Fine, George Farias, Michael Foster, Bruce Addison, Peggy Siegal, Jay and Tracey Snyder, Susan Gutfreund, Pepe and Emilia Fanjul, Elizabeth Meigher, Chris and Grace Meigher, Alejandra Cicognani, and Patrick McMullan who photographed the entire evening.
There were no place cards for the several tables with seating for 8 to 12 guests. At first guests weren’t sure “where” they were supposed to be. This was the informal version. If Alex wanted place cards for such a diverse group both in age and location, it would have taken him a month just to figure out the right seating. So the guests figured it out just by taking the seat that seemed open or was next to someone they knew or whatever.
And so it was; improvisation can turn out some great performances. It was a smorgasbord of seating, and the room was so loud with the 66 voices, the sounds of a chorus of humanity, that the guests all speaking the same time; so packed in and happy to be there, that it turned out to be a good time was had by all. Thanks Alex, and here’s to the New Volume.