Gino closed this weekend, after many close calls and last-minute saves. I went for a "last meal" back in January and it wasn't my last. But this weekend was it. It seems the whole city knew about the landmark's passing and they all showed up to say goodbye to this wonderful piece of old New York.
One couple came because they met at Gino a decade ago. "It's just too sad," said the husband, ordering their drinks.
A woman in leopard print, who looked like an elegant and gracefully aged Kim Novak, flew in all the way from the West Coast just to bid the restaurant farewell. She talked about the famous zebra wallpaper--which she installed on the walls of her own bathroom back home. She special ordered it from Scalamandre. The wait time was 36 months, but it was worth it.
And the regulars were all there. One gentlemanly silver-haired fellow looked at the growing crowd and said, "If only it had been this busy all the time. It wouldn't be closing."
A woman with a husky voice sipped Campari and sodas. She had one more than her usual number. She said, "I was practically born here. I can't explain how I feel at this bar. Safe. I feel safe. Like I'm home. Is that silly? I don't know what I'm going to do now."
People hugged the owners and said, "I'm gonna miss you." Camera flashes popped in every corner. The telephone never stopped ringing. It was answered, when it was answered, with an accented "Hello, Gino?" The crowd roared. Couples kissed and stroked each other's arms, seeking comfort. Drinks spilled. Dishes clattered. The waiters ran up and down, counting stacks of money, carrying dishes, forgetting forks.
At the end of my last meal, the white tablecloth covered in crumbs, ravioli and meatballs gone, the waiter asked, "Finito?"
"Finito," I said. And that was all.
Is that you, Gay Talese, in your white straw hat?
More coverage of Gino's last weekend:
New York Post