S e a r c h



History of Delmonico's Restaurant and business operations in New York

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 -- The history of Delmonico's Restaurant in New York parallels in many ways the history of American cuisine.  This sets forth the detailed history of how the Delmonico family built a institution that lasted for almost a century and came to be synonymous with haute cuisine.  Before reviewing this history, the reader should be familiar with the Background and Locations of Delmonico's Restaurant.


Before 1824, Swiss-born Giovanni Del-Monico (as the family name was then spelled) had been a successful sea captain.  Giovanni and his family were from a small village, Mairengo, which was Switzerland's southernmost area, adjacent to Italy.  

In 1824, he retired from a career at sea and opened a wine shop near the Battery in New York.  His business consisted of importing casks of wine and bottling the wine himself.  In business, he called himself "John" but used the French spelling "Jean" in legal documents.  

In 1826, John closed his shop and sailed home to Switzerland.  There, he learned that one of his brothers, Pietro, had opened a very successful candy shop in Berne.  Peter was expert in the art of making candy and pastries, but he was not a cook.  The brothers discussed business opportunities in America, and they decided to move to New York and to invest their combined savings of about $20,000 (which was then a very large amount) to open a new business there.

Just as Giovanni used the English name, "John Del-Monico" in business and the French spelling in legal documents, Pietro used "Peter Del-Monico" in business and "Pierre Antoine Del-Monico" in legal documents.

23 William Street

On December 13, 1827, the brothers opened a small cafe and pastry shop at 23 William Street.  Just as they adapted to American customs by using the English spelling of their first names, they changed the spelling of their last name from Del-Monico to Delmonico.

Some writers later speculated that the change in the spelling of their surname resulted from a sign-painter's error.  They claimed that the brothers hired a painter to make a sign for their new business, and the painter produced a large sign that said "Delmonico".  Rather than correct the sign, it is said, the brothers changed their own name.

Later events prove the sign story incorrect.  The enormous success of John and Peter resulted from their constant attention to the smallest detail.  It is inconceivable that the brothers would have, first, allowed a sign-painter to make such a mistake and, secondly, allow the mistake to continue uncorrected.  The brothers themselves had changed their first names to conform more closely to their new country, so it is not surprising that they made the small change in the spelling of their family name.

The brother formed a partnership to own the cafe and pastry shop, which they called "Delmonico and Brother" (meaning "John Delmonico and brother Peter").  John managed the business and worked in the front, with the guests, while Peter worked in the back as the cook.

The cafe and pastry shop started with six, small pine tables, with chairs to match.

Half a dozen pine tables, with chairs to match, comprised the furniture of the cafe.  Along one side of the room was a counter spread with white napkins, upon which the day's stock of cakes and pastries was arranged neatly.  John, in white apron and cap, was the counterman.  Aside from the pastries that Peter confected, the shop dispensed coffee, chocolate, bonbons, orgeats, bavaroises, wines, liquors, and fancy ices. . . . The first customers the little cafe attracted were European residents in the city.  There was a considerable colony of these, mostly agents of export houses.  Marooned in a strange country, among people with barbarous eating habits, the exiles were quick to discover the William Street oasis.  Thomas at 9.

Business grew quickly, and Peter's wife was often found working as a cashier.  This itself was a novelty, for women seldom worked in cafes.  In those days, cafes were frequented exclusively by men, who could enjoy a coffee or drink, smoke a cigar, and enjoy a light bite of something to eat.  Cafes were modeled on the Parisian concept, which was similar to the American tavern (or bar).  There were no public dining rooms or restaurants.  Men frequented taverns and cafes for a beverage and bite to eat.  For meals, people ate only a home or, if a visitor, at the inn, where the cost included meals prepared by the innkeeper's wife or staff.

In May, 1829, the brothers rented a room in the adjoining building, at 25 William Street.  Business continued to grow.  In February, 1830, the brothers rented the entire building at 25 William Street, where they planned to expand and start a new venture.

25 William Street

New York directories for the years 1828, 1829 and 1830 showed the brothers business listing as:

Delmonico & Brother, confectioners, 23 William Street

Of course, the information in these directories was always one year old, so the 1830 directory reflected the business as it was in 1829.  

In March, 1830, the brothers opened their new business at 25 William Street, which was reported in the following, 1831 New York directory as:

Delmonico & Brother, confectioners and Restaurant Francais, 23 and 25 William Street

This was the very first restaurant or public dining room ever opened in the United States.  The brothers modeled their restaurant on those which were quickly growing throughout Europe.  Peter was a pastry chef but not a cook, so the brothers hired French cooks of ability from the steady stream of immigrants who settled in New York.

The restaurant occupied 25 William Street, while the cafe and pastry shop continued to thrive next door at 23 William Street.

1827 or 1830?

Did Delmonico's start in 1827, when the "confectioners" opened at 23 Wm St, or in 1830, when the "Restaurant Francias" opened on 25 Wm St?  

Delmonico's letterhead claimed "Established 1827".  See the letter by Charles C. Delmonico dated Feb. 24, 1893, reproduced in The Epicurean after the Preface.

But the historical fact is that the restaurant opened in 1830.

The restaurant was a novelty in New York.  There were new foods, a courteous staff, and cooking that was unknown at the homes of even the wealthiest New Yorkers.  The restaurant was open for lunch and dinner.

The restaurant featured a bill of fare, which was itself new.  Those who dined at inns were fed on a set meal for a set price.  As a result, everyone was fed the same meal and were charged the same price, whether they ate little or much.  In Paris, however, restaurants offered their patrons a "bill of fare", a carte, which listed separate dishes with individual prices.  Each patron could choose a combination of dishes which was different from the other patrons.  Each dish was priced separately.  Thus, the restaurant was able to accommodate the tastes and hunger of each individual.  The various dishes and their prices were listed on a carte or (the English translation) "bill of fare".  Today, we call it a menu. 

At Williams Street, the Delmonico brothers used this Parisian system.  Foreign visitors and then residents came to the new restaurant to sample the new fare.  They tasted the new, subtle French sauces and sampled new vegetables, like eggplant, endive and artichokes.  The restaurant grew and prospered.

. . . the process of widening and lightening the diet of Americans was under way [with the opening of the restaurant].  And at the same time that it was promoting this basic alternation, Delmonico's was establishing the pattern of purveying food in America that would be adopted universally.  For Delmonico's was the first successful restaurant in the country, distinguishable from the service afforded by a cook-shop, tavern, inn, or hotel.  In those places the dining room was an adjunct, and the customer ate what was served by the host or proprietor.  Meals were at set times, and were charged for at a flat, inclusive rate.

A restaurant, by contrast, is an establishment where a person may enter at any time, and from a list of the dishes available may order as much or as little as he pleases.  Furthermore, in a restaurant the price of each dish is indicated separately, so that the customer can accommodate his appetite to his purse and know exactly what his meal will cost in advance, without either paying for something he does not want, or running the risk of unpleasant surprises when the bill is presented.

The convenience afforded by such an innovation made an immediate hit with the merchants who lunched and dined at Delmonico's in the early years.  Meals could be taken at opportune moments during the hurry of the day;  they could be as copious or as meager as the customer wished;  and the choice was not confined to a few daily "specials," but was immense.  Restaurants, on the Delmonico principle, quickly appeared in imitation, spread to other cities, and long before Delmonico's career closed they had become fixtures in American life.  Delmonico's modest beginnings laid the foundation of the restaurant industry of today:  every eating house in the Unite States, be it good, bad, or indifferent (which most of them are), derives from the coffee shop on William Street, and the later establishment at Beaver and South William.  Thomas at 181-182.

From the very beginning, the brothers operated the restaurant with a policy of using only the very best foods prepared in the very best manner.  Quality and not cost was their emphasis.

By the next summer in 1831, the brothers needed more help to run their restaurant and cafe.  John and Peter had another brother, Francesco, who remained in Switzerland.  Francesco agreed to send his 19 year old son, Lorenzo, to help work in the family business.  

On September 1, 1831, Lorenzo Delmonico arrived and began working at the restaurant.  For the next 40 years, Lorenzo Delmonico guided the restaurant to a status and reputation for excellence that has never been matched.

As the restaurant grew, the brothers offered more and more European imports.  They offered their guests the best wines, like Chateau Margaux, and rare champagne.  Their food was served on fine china.

Brooklyn farm

In 1834, the brothers used some of their growing profits to purchase a 220 acre farm on Long Island.  (Later, in 1855, the farm was incorporated into Brooklyn.)  The brothers not only maintained a country residence at the farm but they also used the farm for great benefit to grow vegetables for their restaurant.

At the farm, the brothers raised many vegetables that were not otherwise available in America.  The brothers introduced many of these to their American restaurant guests.

76 Broad Street

In 1834, the brothers purchased a lodging house at 76 Broad Street.  A lodging house in those days was not a hotel in the modern sense, since most of the house guests were long-term residents.  These included foreign businessmen who remained in America for a year or more.

As was the custom with lodging houses of the day, all guests were provided regular meals in the ordinary form.  That is, all guests were given the same meal, which was served at set times -- breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This lodging house would soon prove important to the Delmonico's success.

By 1835, the brothers had several family members working in the restaurant and care, including Peter's two older daughters and four of Francesco's sons, including Lorenzo.  (Francesco himself remained living in Mairengo throughout his life.)

On December 16, 1835, a huge fire swept across the city of New York.  The fire destroyed much of lower New York, including the Williams Street restaurant and cafe.  Luckily, the 76 Broad Street lodging house was not damaged.  The brothers and Lorenzo (who was by then actively managing the business with his uncles) went to work immediately to remodel a portion of the lodging house to accommodate the restaurant.

On February 23, 1836, only two months after the fire, the brothers had reopened the restaurant at the new location.  They also decided to purchase a parcel of land (they had rented the William Street property) and to rebuild their restaurant.  As reported by the Daily Express:

Mr. Delmonico established a restauranteur [sic] in William Street some years ago, which was the first of any importance known in this city.  By great assiduity to his occupation, he soon acquired not only a great run of business from foreigners, but from Americans who were fond of the French style of cooking.  On the memorable night of the 16th December, 1835, his large establishment, which was then in perfect order, was laid in ashes, and he, with his numerous servants and attendants, were thrown entirely out of all business.  Not discouraged by the calamities of that night, Mr. Delmonico made immediate arrangements for erecting a building that would afford amply room to accommodate the public.  As quoted by Thomas at 24-25.

No. 2 South William Street

In August, 1836, the brothers purchased a plot of ground at the corner of Beaver, William and South William (formerly Mill) Street.  There they began construction of a building designed specifically for a restaurant.

In August, 1837, construction was completed.  The building was 3 1/2 stories high, and the entrance featured marble pillars imported fromthe portico of delmonico's Pompeii.  The first and second floors featured large "saloons" (dining rooms), decorated with inlaid floors and the most expensive decor.  The third floor held several private dining rooms, as well as the kitchen.  The cellar included wine vaults stocked with 16,000 bottles of French wine.

For the first time, the brothers gave it the name "Delmonico's Restaurant".  But the public soon called it "The Citadel".

Celebrities from around the world flocked to the Citadel to enjoy the finest of cuisines.  The brothers hired John Lux as chef de cuisine, and he produced continual surprises.

The Delmonicos were always on the alert to learn "the latest thing" in Parisian dining . . . . [T]hese Gallic inventions, when transferred to Delmonico's kitchens, often proved superior to their prototypes at Paris, because Delmonico's cooks considered themselves ambassadors charged with upholding the honor of their national cuisine;  and in fulfilling this mission they were able to draw upon the greater abundance of fine foodstuffs available in America.  Finally, their very nostalgia for France spurred them to intenser efforts.  Thomas at 46.

For five years, the restaurant and its fame and fortune grew and prospered.  Then, on November 10, 1842, John Delmonico died suddenly.  After being closed four days, the following notice was printed in the newspapers:

"The establishment will be reopened today under the same firm of Delmonico Brothers," the notice read, "and no pains of the bereft family will be spared to give general satisfaction.  Restaurant, bar-room [i.e., cafe] and private dinners No. 2 South William Street, furnished rooms No. 76 Broad Street, as usual."  Thomas at 48.

Lorenzo assumed the burden of management.  He was 29 years old and became the general-in-chief of Delmonico's two establishments.  His uncle, Peter, was almost 60 years old and welcomed Lorenzo's management ability.  Lorenzo had been working for the family business for eleven years and "had mastered every turn of restaurant-keeping;  his grasp of even the most trivial details of the business would become proverbial.  In addition, he had an instinctive understanding of New York City, and unbounded confidence in its future."  Thomas at 49.

In March, 1843, John's widow died, and Peter and Lorenzo became the owners of the two businesses and the farm.  The business name became "P.A. & L. Delmonico".

Lorenzo kept a consistent routine schedule.  Every day he would arrive at the market at 4:00 am to supervise the purchase of meat, game, vegetables and other necessities for the restaurant.  At exactly 8:00 am, Lorenzo would return with his purchases to the restaurant, where he smoked a cigar and then, at 9:00 am, he walked home and slept.  At 6:00 pm, he returned to the restaurant, where he greeted guests and supervised the business until midnight.  

On July 19, 1845, another great fire swept through the city.  The Citadel survived, but the lodging house at 76 Broad Street did not.

25 Broadway

Under Lorenzo's leadership, the family business reacted to the destruction of their lodging house by opening a major new hotel.  They leased a parcel of land at Broadway and Morris Street (just above Bowling Green) under a ten-year lease, and they contracted for the construction of a new building.

On June 1, 1846, the Delmonico Hotel opened its doors.  The public announcement of the opening said"

"No pains have been spared to render it one of the most comfortable in the city, and persons in search of a permanent home, as well as strangers merely passing by, will find all their wants attended to with the strictest attention."  As quoted by Thomas at 60.

This was the only real hotel which was ever operated by the Delmonicos, and it was the first major hotel in the United States which was operated on the European (rather than the American) plan.  Under the American plan, guests paid one price for room and board.  However, under the European plan, the room and meals were priced separately, and meals were a la carte rather than "ordinary".  Meals a la carte meant that each dish was ordered from a menu and priced separately, while the "ordinary" plan meant that all guests were served the same few dishes at a fixed price.

The hotel prospered under Lorenzo's management, but his uncle, Peter, was uninterested in the hotel business and was little involved in its operation.

In 1848, Peter Delmonico retired and sold his half interest to Lorenzo.  Thus, Lorenzo became the sole owner of the restaurant at 2 South William Street and the hotel at 25 Broadway.  The opened the grand era of Delmonico fame and fortune.

The hotel became world famous.  "Favored by visiting celebrities, especially Europeans, it was the first considerable hotel in New York to be conducted successfully on the European plan -- all meals a la carte, no 'ordinary,' and guests paying separately for room and board."  Thomas at 64.  As a concession to the preference of American men for a bar rather than a French-style cafe (which featured pastries and coffee, although offering wine and liquor), the hotel 's bar overshadowed its cafe.  

For years, the hotel was unrivaled in New York.  Constant Delmonico, Lorenzo's brother, was the hotel manager, while Lorenzo was responsible for overall management of the businesses.

By 1856, Lorenzo saw that the city center was continuing its move northward, and he decided to follow.  In 1856, Lorenzo elected to let the ten-year lease of 25 Broadway expire, and the Delmonico Hotel was closed forever.  (The hotel was reopened as Stevens House.) 

Chambers Street

In 1856, Lorenzo made a decision which was even more surprising than his decision to close the Delmonico Hotel:  he decided to open a new restaurant at the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street, across from City Hall.  He signed a 21-year lease on the corner, which had formed part of the old Irving House, which he renovated the property.

Upon opening the Chambers Street restaurant, Lorenzo changed the Citadel at South William Street to provide luncheons in the financial district.  The Chambers Street restaurant was an immediate success with several segments of New Yorkers:  the expansive crowd at midday, the stock brokers and bankers at dinner, and the social set for dining and parties.

Chambers Street became the place for social dining.  The politicians and the law clerks might usurp it during the day, but in the evening the "best people" took over -- people who knew how to dine.  True, other restaurants provided good cuisine, but Delmonico's had a cachet of its own.  No competitor could match its superb service, and if the prices were high, the ability to pay was not lacking.  Thomas at 75.

The Delmonico family managed the two operations.  Lorenzo's brother, Siro, managed the Chambers Street restaurant;  their brother, Constant, had managed the Delmonico Hotel and, when it closed, became manager of the Citadel;  and Lorenzo was the general manager and remained responsible for all food purchases.

East 14th Street

Six years after opening the Chambers Street restaurant, Lorenzo moved again further uptown to Union Square.

On April 9, 1862, Lorenzo opened a converted mansion at Fifth Avenue and East 14th Street into the most luxurious restaurant that had ever existed in New York.  The entrance was No. 1 East 14th Street, one block west of Union Square.

The reviews were outstanding.  Wrote a Tribune representative:

"As New York spreads herself, so must the House of Delmonico dilate.  Before Fifth Avenue was built, there was the downtown Delmonico;  when it was achieved, there were the Chambers Street and Broadway Delmonicos;  and now that Central Park is undertaken, precedent to a line of noble mansions to its walls, Delmonico has spread up to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth Street . . . .

The service is splendid.  The waiters noiseless as images in a vision -- no hurry-scurry or preparation.  The dishes succeed each other with a fidelity and beauty like the well composed tones of a painting or a symphony.  It was a brilliant overture to the noble operate henceforth to be played there.  As quoted by Thomas at 83-84.

As the manger of this newest restaurant, Lorenzo named his nephew, Charles Delmonico, who was then only 22 years old.

The East 14th Street building housed a cafe, as well as a restaurant.  The cafe was called "the best club in town".  The New York World described the cafe as:

"the resort of more native and foreign notabilities than perhaps any other place in the city.  There distinguished literary and political persons stop daily to sip the matutinal cocktail, the anti-prandial sherry-and-bitters, and the evening 'pony.'  There the Wall Street magnates drop in on their way uptown to sip the insidious mint-julep, or quaff the foaming champagne cocktail.  There the Frenchman, Spaniard, and Italian may have their absinthe, the American his Bourbon straight, the Englishman his half-and-half.  Morning, noon, and evening the place is alive with a chattering, good-natured, oft-imbibing throng of domestic and imported celebrities."  Quote by Thomas at 120.

By the late 1860s, one conspicuous change at Delmonico's was the presence of women in the restaurant, although never in the cafe and never without an escort.  

Charles Ranhofer

In May, 1862, one month after the 14th Street Delmonco's Restaurant opened, Lorenzo Delmonico hired Charles Ranhofer as the chef de cuisine.  Ranhofer was the greatest cook America ever knew, "one who moved among the great chefs of France as peer and equal".  Thomas at 86.

His background and contributions are explained in the Charles Ranhofer story.

For almost twenty years -- from May, 1862 until Lorenzo Delmonico's death in September, 1881 -- Lorenzo Delmonico and Charles Ranhofer provided unrivaled excellence to New Yorkers.

22 Broad Street

In 1865, Lorenzo opened a new restaurant branch, at 22 Broad Street.  When this opened, there were four Delmonico's in New York, and Lorenzo Delmonico was the general manager of all.  He selected his cousin, John Longhi, to manage the new restaurant, while Constant managed the South William Street ("Citadel") restaurant, Siro managed the Chambers Street restaurant, and Charles managed the 14th Street restaurant.

The 14th Street restaurant drew "society".  Chambers Street drew politicians, merchants, lawyers and brokers.  The Citadel at South William Street drew bankers and shipping magnates.  The new Broad Street restaurant drew stock brokers and specialists.

It was often said that no homelier building existed in new York than the grimy, five-story brownstone at 22 Broad, with the dingy sign "Delmonico" above its doorway;  but by the bulls and bears of Wall Street it was cherished.  It was their corral;  and the schemes that were hatched there, the companies that were floated, and financial battles that were planned in its upstairs rooms, would form a chronique scandaleuse of Wallt Street's wildest days.  Thomas at 123.

The 1870s were America's Gilded Age, and period in New York from 1876 to about 1896 was its Golden Age 

26th Street

In 1876, Lorenzo decided to move northward to Madison Square.  Again, the center of the city had shifted north, uptown, and Lorenzo determined to follow it.  Madison Square was the new center of residences, with the finest hotels and theaters, while 14th Street was beginning to look seedy.

On September 11, 1876, the restaurant at Fifth Avenue and East 14th Street closed, and it re-opened at Fifth Avenue and 26th Street.  The uptown building occupied the entire south side of 26th Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

The frontage on Fifth Avenue, the public was told in relentless detail, was sixty-five feet;  the windows on that side overlooked a miniature lawn, and beyond that, across Fifth Avenue, the trees and flower beds of Madison Square.  The main dining room was to be on that side, enjoying the view.  At the other end of the building, fronting sixty-one feet on Broadway, would be the men's cafe;  while in the center of the Twenty-sixth Street side (one hundred and fifty feet long) would be the entrance giving access to the dining and ball rooms on the upper floors.  Thomas at 157.

In the first floor restaurant, silver chandeliers hung from the frescoed ceiling.  Mirrors lined each wall, and mahogany furniture dressed the room.  Flowers bordered a fountain in the center.

On the second floor was the ballroom, decorated in red and gold, and four private dining rooms, each decorated in a different color of satin.  There were also supper and retiring rooms.

The third floor featured more dining rooms and a banquet hall, each decorated in different colors and styles. 

The fourth floor held the living quarters of a few residents -- confirmed bachelors, all.  

The top floor housed the servants' quarters, storage rooms and laundry.

There was a sour note, however, with the move from 14th Street to 26th Street:  Charles Ranhofer did not move.  Several months before the 14th Street restaurant closed, Ranhofer retired and returned to France.

The famous story is told and retold of the chance remark which gave life to a new name, a remark made Captain Alexander Williams, a policeman.  He received an order transferring him from the Gas House District on the far East Side to the 29th Precinct on the West Side.  The precinct was bounded by Fourth Avenue and Seventh Avenue and by 14th Street and 42nd Street.  It thus included the new Delmonico's Restaurant as well as the brothels, gambling dens and other infamous places in the nearby area called "Satan's Circus".  Captain Williams enjoyed the new precinct, where there were so many opportunities for the alert policeman to excel.  

Yet so adaptable was he to the mixed character of his new command, that when off duty and out of uniform he devoured steak with the genteel at Delmonico's, serenely looking out upon placid Madison Square.  This fulfilled the prophesy that had escaped him when he was notified of his transfer:  "I've been living off chuck steak for a long time.  Now I'm going to get a bit of the tenderloin!"  The Tenderloin was thus named -- and Delmonico's was in it -- though never in the sense that posterity has attached to that word.  Thomas at 169.

Pine Street

On October 26, 1876, shortly after Delmonico's moved its uptown location from 14th Street to 26th Street, Lorenzo Delmonico moved its downtown location.  The Chambers Street restaurant closed, and a new restaurant opened at 112-114 Broadway, near Pine Street (the "Pine Street restaurant" or "lower Broadway restaurant").

The new restaurant prospered downtown from the very first day.  

Descriptions of its commodious interior also filled the newspapers, and all its features were carefully catalogued -- from the storerooms in the subcellar and the bakery in the basement, to the "open, airy, pleasant" kitchens on the top floors, whence the food was carried on "five dumb waiters" to the dining rooms below.  On the ground floor was a quick-service counter, with a side dining room, and the restaurant proper was one flight up -- Axminster-carpeted, with lace-curtained windows overlooking Broadway.  On the floor above, private dining rooms, and on the fourth floor a large dining hall for workers in the Equitable Building, to which doorways cut in the dividing wall gave direct access;  more than a thousand persons a day were accommodated here.  Nothing like this palace of good eating had been seen in downtown New York . . . .  Thomas at 162.

In the meantime, the South William Street restaurant (the "Citadel") and the Broad Street restaurants continued to serve their clientele, so there continued to be four Delmonico's Restaurants in New York.  Delmonico's four restaurants required four hundred employees.

Also in the year 1876, a most curious event occurred at Delmonico's Restaurant on 26th Street, when Lobster a la Wenberg was invented, and then its name was changed to Lobster a la Newberg.

In 1879, three years after he left Delmonico's to retire in France, Charles Ranhofer returned to America and Delmonico's as chef de cuisine at the 26th Street (Madison Square) restaurant.

Delmonico's after Lorenzo

By the time Ranhofer returned to Delmonico's in 1879, Lorenzo Delmonico's health had begun to deteriorate.  He had begun to shift the managerial duties to his nephew, Charles.  The business continued to prosper and function smoothly.

During the summer of 1881, Lorenzo was outside the city, and no one in the public knew of his health problems.  On September 3, 1881, Lorenzo Delmonico died at the relatively young age of 68.  The public was shocked, while newspapers retold his life and contributions.  Said the Sun:

"The influence which Delmonico has exerted upon life in New York can scarcely be overestimated.  [He] did more than build up a great business and accumulate a great fortune.  He gave an impulse to good cookery throughout the country, and raised the standards of hotel and restaurant kitchens.  By his success he excited emulation, and the result has been a great and general improvement in our cookery . . . ."  As quoted by Thomas at 170.

Said the New York Times:

". . . For many years the name of Delmonico had been everywhere received as the synonym for perfection in gastronomy.  Delmonico dinners are famous the world over.  Without a peer in popular estimation, Lorenzo Delmonico strove hard to deserve the honors bestowed upon him. . . ."  As quoted by Thomas at 171.

His funeral on September 7 was attended his family, friends, and notables of New York.  The largest floral arrangement was sent by the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique, of which Charles Ranhofer was president and Lorenzo had been a member.

After Lorenzo's death, Charles Constant Delmonico inherited the business from his uncle, and he continued to conduct the family business in the usual tradition, until his unexpected (and very odd) death in 1884.  Charles was more open than Lorenzo and thus gave more interviews to the press.  For example, in 1882, when inflation raged, he was asked the reason that Delmonco's Restaurant raised its price of a Delmonico Steak (a sirloin steak) from $0.75 to $1.00.  He said,

"I can't help it.  The other day I had one of my cooks cut up four short loins to see precisely what they would make in beef, porterhouse and rib steaks, filets and Chateuabriands;  and after the most careful computations, allowing even for the trimmings given to the servants and the bones used for making soup, I found the entire yield was $46.50, while the cost to me was $40.75.  Considering the butter used on the steaks, the rent and other expenses, that meant a decided loss to the establishment."  As quoted in Thomas at 201.

Note:  This contains several clues concerning the Delmonico Steak and a puzzle.  The puzzle is found in the fact that the short loin does not produce a rib steak (at least, not in modern butchery).  The rib steak is produced from the subprimal Rib.  Other than this puzzle, however, it seems that the butchers used the typical short loin for these cuts, so that the sirloin itself was available for steaks.

In January, 1884, Charles died very strangely.  He had owned all of the Delmonico's Restaurants, and he left a half interest to his sister, Rosa, and divided the other half interest among his deceased sister's (Giovannina's) three children, Charles Delmonico Crist, Lorenzo Delmonico Crist, and Josphine Otard (nee Josephine Crist).  By an act of the legislature of the State of New York, Charles Delmonico Crist changed his legal name to Charles Crist Delmonico ("Charles C." or "Young Charlie"), and his brother and sister did likewise.  Rosa Delmonico brought "Young Charley" into the business and was its active general manager, until his death in 1901.  

During the period of Young Charley's management, from 1884 to 1901, the four Delmonico's Restaurants continued to be well managed.  He established his headquarters at the 26th Street restaurant and visited the other locations infrequently.  However, because the managers were so talented and had been with Delmonico for years, the operations ran smoothly.  At the four restaurants:

  • James A. Hill, an old and trusted aide, managed South William Street;
  • Long-time Lorenzo Delmonico confidant John Longhi managed the Broad Street restaurant, at least for a while;
  • Henry Tilghman continued his long-time management of the 26th Street restaurant, where the customers knew and approved of his talents.  and
  • Alessandro Filippini, who began as a cook and served as the head chef before Ranhofer, managed the Pine Street restaurant;

John Longhi had been a close confidant of Lorenzo for many years, and he expected Lorenzo to leave the ownership of the Broad Street restaurant to him.  When Lorenzo failed to leave the business to him, John Longhi was crushed.  Shortly after Young Charley took over ownership and management, Longhi retired.

2 South William Street, the New Citadel

By 1888, the business at the Pine Street restaurant had decreased, and Young Charles decided to close it.  The long time manager of the restaurant was Alessandro Filippini, who had started at Delmonco's Restaurant as a cook and had risen to the chef de cuisine before Ranhofer, and then to the manager of the Pine Street branch.  Filippini retired and started a new career as a writer and consultant.

With the closure of the Pine Street restaurant, Delmonico's had only two branches remaining:  the stalwart Old Citadel on South William Street, and the Madison Square jewel at 26th Street.

In 1889, Filippini published his book, The Table, with recipes simplified from the actual Delmonico’s preparation.  The book included a letter of praise from Young Charlie Delmonico.

There is a mystery associated with Filippini's letter to Charles C. Delmonico asking for permission to dedicate his book to the Delmonico Family.  He wrote, apparently in 1888:  "Having been with the 'Delmonico's' for nearly a quarter of a century . . . "  The problem is simply that, by 1888, he must have been with the Delmonico's at least since 1840, which would have been "nearly half of a century", not merely a "quarter".  Perhaps the explanation is no more complicated than a simple counting or writing error by Filippini.

By 1890, the South William Street restaurant had served since 1837, some 53 years.  The structure was no longer acceptable for use by the most renowned restaurant, so Young Charley decided to rebuild the restaurant.

On July 10, 1890, Young Charlie laid the cornerstone for the new building, and construction began.

On July 7, 1891, the new Delmonico's Restaurant at South William Street opened to the public.  The new structure was eight stories tall and featured, for the first time, electric lights.  It also kept several touches from the original structure, including the Pompeii pillars and cornice that framed the entrance.

The first floor offered both a cafe and a restaurant, fabulously decorated.  The second floor featured a ladies dining room and two private dining rooms.  Business offices were offer for rent on the third through seventh floors.  The kitchen occupied the top floor.

The food and service in the new structure continued the Delmonico tradition of excellence in dining, and diners continued to patronize the restaurant.

Two years later, in 1893, Young Charlie had little choice but to close the Broad Street restaurant.  The property had been operating under a lease, and the owners had decided to sell it.  Furthermore, the long-time manager, John Longhi, had retired.

The grizzly-gray sign "Delmonico" came down for the last time on Broad Street, and on the closing day old-stagers gathered to swap stories.  One white-haired banker, as he lifted his glass, sighed that he had bought the first cocktail at the bar on opening day, in 1866 [actually 1865], and was determined to buy the last.  Thomas at 201.

Young Charlie continued to supervise the operation of the remaining three restaurants, even though the times were changing adversely to the tradition of Delmonico's Restaurant.  As usual, Ranhofer continued to excel as chef de cuisine.

In 1895, Young Charles Delmonico and Ranhofer introduced New York to the "alligator pear." or avocado, which had been newly imported from South America.  Ranhofer had known of the avocado -- he mentions the avocado in his book, The Epicurean, which he published the previous year -- but until 1895 he had been unable to secure a supply of the buttery fruit.

44th Street

On April 20, 1896, Young Charles Delmonico signed a 15-year lease and surprised the entire city when he announced that "Del's" would open a new restaurant farther uptown, at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 44th Street.  The city center had continued its move northward, and Delmonico continued to follow.

As the new structure was being built, everyone assumed that Delmonico's Restaurant would continue at the Madison Square location on 26th Street.  The location there was particularly convenient for shoppers, and it was nearby the crossing of Fifth Avenue, Broadway and 23rd Street, which was becoming known as the heart of the metropolis.

On November 15, 1897, the new Delmonico's Restaurant on 44th Street opened to universal praise and some shock.  In the restaurant, smoking would now be permitted (previously, smoking had been permitted only in the cafe).  This change was at the insistence of women, who resented the fact that the men would "retire to the smoking room" after dinner.  With this change, women believed that the men would be averse to desert them after dining.  

Another change and surprise was the addition of an orchestra, which would play "in the background".  Previously, listeners were expected to cease movement and to concentrate when an orchestra played, so that they and all could enjoy the music.  Now, music would be played while patrons ate and even talked.

The new building reflected the Delmonico grandeur with its furnishings and atmosphere.  On the first floor, the ladies restaurant overlooked Fifth Avenue.  Next to it was the Palm Garden, with plate glass windows reaching from the floor to the ceiling.  The cafe and dining rooms on the second floor were richly decorated and had anterooms.  The rooms were constructed so that they could all open together for very large parties.  On the third floor, the ballroom was lighted (with electric lights, of course), and there were smaller private rooms, including a "bride's room", reserved obviously for the bride at her wedding.  Lodgers apartments, servant's rooms and the laundry were on the top two floors.  The kitchens were in the basement, and pumps and machinery occupied the subcellar.

Early in 1898, Ranhofer had completed the transfer of the Delmonico's Restaurant central kitchen operations from Madison Square restaurant on 26th Street.  Then he retired, and he died a year later.

M. Grevillet succeeded Ranhofer as the chef de cuisine at Delmonico's Restaurant.

On April 18, 1899, New York was shocked to learn that Young Charles Delmonico was closing the 26th Street restaurant at Madison Square.  The lease had expired, and declining business could not support a continuation.

This meant that Delmonico's Restaurant had only two locations:  the New Citadel, downtown at South William Street, and the new uptown restaurant at 44th Street.

In May, 1901, Young Charles Delmonico died.  Rosa Delmonico (known as "Aunt Rosa"), who had owned a majority of the business for all these years while letting Young Charles manage it, decided that the business now required her own talents to manage it.  Rosa herself owned almost all the business interest (her niece, Josephine Crist Delmonico owned a one-sixth interest).  Rosa personally managed the restaurants for the remainder of her life, from 1901 to 1904.  She was an active and competent manager, and it was believed by many that she had been very influential in the management of the business since Lorenzo's death in 1881.  But few patrons knew her by sight, and she retained the same operational managers and staff.  The Delmonico's tradition continued under her supervision.

On March 24, 1904, Aunt Rosa died at the age of 65.  Rosa will left two-thirds of the business to her niece, Josephine Crist Delmonico Otard and a one-third interest (later reduced to one-quarter) to her nephew (Josephine's brother), Lorenzo Crist Delmonico.  In addition, full managerial control was vested exclusively in Josephine.

From 1904 to 1907, Josephine and Lorenzo engaged in a very public, very bitter legal and personal dispute.  It became clear that Josephine was not a competent manager and that the financial health of the business was in dire jeopardy.  Josephine left day-to-day management in the hands of Eugene Garnier, who had been with Delmonico's since 1872 and was entrusted with maintaining the Delmonico's Restaurant standards.  He is reported to have said,

Delmonico's for so many years has run along so smoothly in the old grooves that the coming of one or the going of another Delmonico in the ownership will have have any noticeable effect on the conduct of the business.  As quoted in Thomas at 291.

In 1910, Eugene Garnier retired, and he died in 1914.  

Wilfred J. Taupier replaced Garnier as Delmonico's general manager.  Taupier supervised a major renovation and redecoration of the 44th Street restaurant.  Telephones were becoming widely available, and Taupier received credit for having installed, in the many telephone booths, those  little electric fans which started when the door was closed.

By the beginning of 1911, the reputation of Delmonico's Restaurant remained perfect, but its financial condition was not.  There were rumors that the restaurant would be sold, but in August, 1911, the lease was renewed through 1927.

1914 brought the world to war in Europe, and it impacted Delmonico's Restaurant.  Eating habits were changing.

In 1917, the South William Street restaurant was closed and the property was sold.  

Long "obituaries" appeared in the news columns upon teh passing of that famous resort of businessmen, and a story told "in the old days" was resuscitated, about how Peter Delmonico enjoined Lorenzo, when making the property over to his nephew, never to let the business or the building pass out of family control.  Lorenzo had lived up to the trust;  the present representatives seemed incapable of it.  Thomas at 325-326.

In 1919, the continuing battle between the siblings and owners, Josephine and Lorenzo, flared anew when Lorenzo and his heirs filed a petition in bankruptcy in the United States District Court.  In a long and carefully researched ruling, Judge Julius M. Mayer reviewed the long history of Delmonico's.

In 1919, the last remaining Delmonico's Restaurant was sold to a restaurateur named Edward L.C. Robins.  Unfortunately, the transfer took place on the very day that Prohibition went into effect.

After 1919, dining in the traditional style at Delmonico's Restaurant was no longer possible, because:

  • There was no wine cellar;
  • There was no wine for use in cooking;
  • Some dishes, like Terrapin, disappeared, because they could not be prepared without wine or spirits;
  • Other dishes, like Canvasback Ducks, disappeared because their habitats were destroyed;  and
  • No more wild game could be sold in New York.

Prohibition brought an immediate and vast change in the eating habits of the wealthy.  Long and elaborately prepared meals were not possible at restaurants, so the wealthy no longer ate at Delmonico's or other restaurants.  Instead, they enlarged their kitchens at home and entertained there, with private cooks.  At home, the wealthy had their own wine cellars -- as often as not stocked from the cellars of their favorite restaurants, which had been forced to dispose of their holdings.  

The emerging middle class dealt with the war and prohibition by changing their entertainment habits away from restaurants and toward private clubs, dance halls, burlesque houses, and (soon) the movies.  Jazz and gin ruled the age.

In April, 1921, Delmonico's Restaurant was raided by "Dry Agents", who arrested a waiter and manager for serving vodka and gin, in violation of Prohibition.  It was another sign of the coming demise of the institution of Delmonico's Restaurant.

On May 21, 1923, a final dinner was held at Delmonico's Restaurant.  The new owner realized the impossibility of continuing the business.  The irony is that the last banquet at the 44th Street restaurant featured mineral water with dinner.

At eleven o'clock the last guest departed, George McLean, the watchman, switched off the lights and locked the doors.  Four years less than one century after the first Delmonico door was opened in New York, the institution died. . . .

Prohibition, the deterioration of dining habits, upward spiraling costs, a hurried, oblivious generation, the breakup of social distinctions, the disintegration of society as it had once flourished -- all these, aggravated by internal decay, had contributed to the ending.  But principally, the enormous expansion of the city and changing customs had outmoded Delmonico's.  There was random talk of reopening, but the time had gone by when that could be done:  Delmonico's had disappeared, and that was the end of it, and the Times, like all contemporary commentators, could only do its memory the justice to state that "to the end, Delmonico's maintained it high culinary standards unchanged." . . .

In New York today [the year 1967] two establishments endeavor to uphold the tradition -- the Delmonico Hotel, uptown on Park Avenue, and Delmonico's Restaurant, downtown, in the building at Beaver and South William Streets.  Neither of these has any connection with the Delmonico family or the original business.  The hotel was erected in 1929, well after the last real Delmonico's had vanished, while the restaurant, formerly known as "Oscar's Delmonico's," has as its only link with the founders of the historic institution the Pompeiian pillars in the portico, that were brought from Italy by John and Peter more than a century ago. . . .

Delmonico descendants attempted to prevent the unauthorized use of the family name commercially;  but the court decided that once the Delmonicos themselves abandoned the use of their name in business, it might be employed by others.  "Delmonico," the court ruled in effect, had become so synonymous with excellence in food and service that for practical purposes it had passed into general currency and had been absorbed into the language.  Thomas at 333-336.

Delmonico followers

After Delmonico's Restaurant closed in 1923, the last authentic Delmonico's Restaurant was laid to rest.  However, since 1923 and continuing to today there have been a series of restaurants that have named themselves Delmonico's but lack any legitimacy or connection with the Delmonico family which build and maintained the institution, with the chefs who maintained unparalleled excellence in food, with the front staff of managers and waiters, who defined excellence in service.  These imposters can offer none of these.

In 1929, shortly before the Wall Street Crash, Oscar Tucci opened the South William Street building as a restaurant, which he called Delmonico's Restaurant but which the public knew as "Oscar's Delmonico's".

In July, 1977, the Huber Family acquired the premises and opened a restaurant which the family called "Delmonico's Restaurant".  It closed in 1992, and the building remained vacant for six years.  

In 1998, the Bice Group, which operated a chain of restaurants, opened a restaurant on the South William Street property which it called "Delmonico's Restaurant".  The new owners, Robert Ruggeri and Stefano Frittella, spent $1.5 million to recreate the Old World feel.  The new Delmonico's featured executive chef Gian Pietro Branchi, from the Bice Restaurant in New York.  ABC.  In 1999 ownership changed hands again.  WABC.

The restaurant at South William Street continues today under the name "Delmonico's Restaurant", and it maintains a website.


Delmonico's Restaurants became fixtures for almost a century in New York.  The keys to the Delmonico success were simply these:

  • The customer must be pleased;
  • The quality of the ingredients must be absolutely the best obtainable and of the highest quality;
  • Pay little heed to (and indeed, even relish) complaints about the steepness of the prices;  but
  • Let the least hint of criticism about your food or service bring instant, personal and complete attention.

With these simple precepts, Delmonico built a reputation that stands alone to this day.

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