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History

Technology available in the era of Delmonico's Restaurant

By JOE O'CONNELL, Food Writer
First posted August 25, 2001 at 8:25 AM PDT (1525 GMT)
Last updated December 1, 2001 at 11:29 AM PDT (1929 GMT)

NEW YORK, New York -- Understanding the history of Delmonico's Restaurant in New York requires an understanding of the technology available, which is provided here.

On December 13, 1827, Giovanni ("John") and Pietro ("Peter") Delmonico opened their first cafe, where they sold coffee, wine and pastries.  The business prospered, and they had the immense good fortune to bring their nephew, Lorenzo, into the business.  Under Lorenzo's constant attention to excellence in every detail, Delmonico's Restaurant became synonymous with the highest standards of food and service.

Available technology

As the history of Delmonico's Restaurant is retold, it is important to understand the times.  Consider that none of the following technologies were available until late in the Nineteenth Century.

  • There was no refrigeration, so food could not be preserved and had to be prepared daily;  cows had to be available nearby to provide milk, cream and cheese;  cattle, hogs and other livestock had to be brought to market alive, because, once slaughtered, their meat would spoil;  the food in the kitchen was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
  • There were as yet no canned goods, so the only food (with a few exceptions like salted meat) had to have been eaten when fresh and in seasons.
  • There was no gas, so all cooking was done with wood and/or coal (anthracite).
  • There were no gas or electric lights, so dining at night was of necessity by candlelight.
  • There were no elevators, so everyone had to ascend to higher floors by stair;  and, for the same reason, the convenience of patrons dictated that the kitchen be on the highest floor.

Conclusion

Delmonico's Restaurant prospered in New York for almost 100 years.  During much of that time, the restaurant operated with few modern technologies.


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