Thursday, January 15, 2009

Elegy for Fiamma

A 'surprise box' that I bid on and won at the Lincoln Center Theater's young patrons benefit contained a $150 gift certificate to B.R. Guest Restaurants. This group includes many popular restaurants in NYC including Blue Water Grill, Dos Caminos and Isabella's as well as sister restaurants in Vegas and Chicago. It is also the parent restaurant of the New York Times 3 star and Michelin 1 star fancy Italian, Fiamma, arguably the group's flagship.

I have very fond memories of dinners at Fiamma, which is located over three floors of a beautiful brick townhouse in SoHo. An evening in November about 5 years ago I gathered there with three of my best girl friends to send off one of our group to a life in sunny California. Because she had been a much-loved server at Blue Water Grill, we got ultimate insider treatment: extra dishes at every course and more desserts than a group of 10 could handle. The food was both luxurious and comforting. Memories of that meal still cast a warm glow in my mind. Since then I've gone back -often just to the quiet second floor bar to sip an excellent glass of prosecco. It was a culinary oasis to rest from battling SoHo shopping tourists or a perfect place to wait for your table at nearby Blue Ribbon to be ready.

My husband had never eaten at Fiamma, so we resolved to spend our B.R Guest cash there for Valentine's Day. The menu listed on the website was full of the rich and aphrodesiacal: oysters, kobe beef, lobster. Mouth-watering. So, like the obsessive New York restaurant goer that I am, I called yesterday morning (they open reservations one month prior to the calendar date) and got an early seating time. The one hitch being that I didn't have a credit card on me -I'd have to call back later to give that to them, but they'd hold my time. I called back at 2pm, 4 hours after I had reserved my table, and a different reservationist told me, "I'm so sorry, ma'am, but in the time between your call this morning and this call, our restaurant has been closed." "What?" I exclaimed. "That was exactly our reaction," he replied.

So sad. I was instantly in mourning, not just for our Valentine's Day dinner that will not be, but for an excellent and acclaimed restaurant that is suddenly no more and all its employees who are abruptly out of a job at a terrible time to be unemployed. Another casualty of the plummeting economy, I guess. If you read retail sales reports from December, you noticed that luxury goods were suffering the most. It does follow that luxury restaurants would be experiencing the same deficits -especially downtown restaurants that relied somewhat on Wall Street's (no longer) deep pockets.

I will miss you, Fiamma. Meanwhile, we will be visiting Primehouse for V-day. Perhaps we can still sastify that Kobe craving.

For more on this, Fiamma's chef, Fabio Trabocchi spoke to Frank Bruni about the closing.

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