The real feel at home

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Conversing around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir at sunset. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Tuesday’s weather was hot and humid with the kind of air that makes you think it was something you ate. RealFeel 100+. 

I wasn’t out that much but it was enough. I go into this detail because although it wasn’t cooler when I went to dinner, when we departed the restaurant about 10 p.m., there was a torrential rainfall just beginning. It went on for an hour and it cooled us off into a beautiful summer night. With freshly washed streets and pavements and watering the leaves and the plants and flowers. wherever you might find them, charming and enhancing the Big Town.

I went out to dinner at Sette Mezzo. That will come as no surprise to those who know me and what a creature of habit I am. I’ve always been fond of restaurants as well as diners where I could “feel at home.” They’re places to be around people, to get a sense of the world we live in. 

Monday night at Sette Mezzo, Gigi and Harry Benson entertained their daughter, son-in-law, granddaughters as well as Alessandro Del Piero and his family. It also happens that Franco the waiter is a big fan of Sandro — as he is referred to — and so we were able to get a photo of the two. Franco, in explaining his admiration for the footballer, told me Del Piero is one of the best players of all time.

Sette Mezzo was very important during the long, lean months of the pandemic. For those of us who live alone, the natural need for human contact was deeply interrupted. For many the recovery is slow.

I’ve always liked Sette because it is comfortable for the clientele. The staff does that. You could say the management does that because it’s a remarkably friendly, congenial and busy and efficient staff, who are also welcoming. It’s Italian; they know how to do it. And then there’s the kitchen – the concealed staff who brings ‘em comin’ back and comin’ back.

Then, for this character, there is the clientele. A lot of energetic voices. A kind of verbal din. It’s joy to my ears. I can’t hear a specific word(s) filling the room to the brim. What I hear is the pleasure (I know there’s the other stuff too but you can’t hear that) of the voices being with each other in this welcoming spot.

Last night I had dinner there with Katherine Bryan and her eldest son George Gurley. It was Katherine’s dinner. She wanted to get me together with George. We go way back to the beginning of the century when George was writing for the Observer. He asked if he could interview me.  I had been writing my Social Diary for several years by then.  

Katherine Bryan and her son George Gurley at Sette.

George is attracted to detail. The interview took place on “the scene,” over my nightly travels as well as the luncheons and galas that I was covering in those days. Mid-season I was hitting two, three, even four events in a night mid-week. 

George wanted to know the details. I was nervous about it only because I knew from his work that he likes the nitty-gritty. The great thing about him is that he likes it as a matter of fact, not of moral judgment. So I said to him, “I’ll tell you everything but you better get it right otherwise I’ll write about you.” The last part was meant as a joke but could be mistaken for more.

He turned out a big piece, a whole front page of the second section of the paper. I was impressed with how “real” it was. And he got it right. Or as right as I gave it to him. As it is in New York, George and I have rarely seen each other since in the past two decades. Although it’s always an interesting time even to meet up with George, his life is gathering information. 

He’s a young father now with a three-year-old son also named George. George’s wife Hilly has a busy career in the jewelry business and so George & George spend a lot of time together. The little one’s father is sharing his information and curiosity with him. Last night George sent me a quick vid of the kid with his mother. I looked at it and could see the results of Father George’s parenting. 

Little George and Hilly.

Katherine and I met at 7 and the place was packed but with only a few tables outside because of the heat. We hadn’t seen each other very much, and the past year remains a subject that comes up in terms of how people are “feeling,” especially those of us who are solo inhabitants. For many it’s been a matter of temperament, an odd kind of aloneness, a loneliness that is new and remotely troubling.

However. Getting back to the business of liking to have a place to patronize. Conversation with Katherine covers a lot of territory and interests, and the pleasure of the company far outweighed any laments. George arrived late (he thought the dinner was for tomorrow) and the conversation expanded and we got into the details of family. Always interesting to this writer. 

When we departed at ten o’clock, the rain had just begun with a few audible drops on the overhead outside the restaurant. Within a few minutes it was torrential – the kind where the umbrella barely makes a difference – coming down so hard it was creating steam on the pavement. A beautiful night in little ole New York.

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