Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Beatrice Vongerichtified

*Update: Vongerichtified's originator follows up with VNY

I was walking around the Village when I stumbled upon the Beatrice Inn. It's been there since 1926. I've passed it before, but never went inside. I took a couple pictures and made a note to go back for dinner sometime. But after an eye-opening Google session, I realize that I won't be going back to the Beatrice Inn, because I seriously doubt the bouncers would allow me inside.

Yes, the Beatrice Inn has bouncers. It's exclusive. It's uber-hip. A celebrity hot spot. But long before Lindsay Lohan started going there to make out with hunky guys, it was a family business run by Elsie and Ubaldo Cardia, and then their children, Aldo and Vivian. It was a neighborhood place where regulars dined nightly. As for celebrities, Jane Jacobs ate there, but today she'd never make it past the proverbial velvet ropes--she was not very fashionable.

The new owner, when he opened the new Beatrice Inn, said he would reserve Monday nights for the old regulars, featuring red-sauce specials and Scrabble. "The whole idea behind the bar-restaurant is bringing things back to NYC, like American and New York things." I wonder if he's honored this promise.

In 2005, when the restaurant closed upon the Cardia children's sale of the building, David Kamp in The Times wrote: "In a neighborhood that grows ever more fabulous, expensive and Vongerichtified, the Beatrice is one of the last vestiges of the nudgy, agitational, oppositional Village of yore."

I had to look up "Vongerichtified." Frank Kirkland at Hunter College says it's from the name of a glamorous, high-end chef and "a neighborhood that is 'Vongerichtified' would be one whose restaurants have shifted their cuisine, their ambience, and their prices in this high-end direction. sociologically this is quite interesting characterizing a neighborhood in terms of its restaurants. usually a neighborhood restaurant carries a kind of 'gemeinschaftlich' (communal) sense. a restaurant in a 'Vongerichtified' neighborhood does not appear to carry such a sense."

Maybe this is a solution to the problem of the word "gentrification," which isn't strong enough, and has to be replaced by something like "super-gentrification" or "hyper-luxurification" to really get at what's happening in this city.

Just think of how many neighborhoods, how many streets, how many places in this city have recently gone from gemeinschaftlich (common, shared, mutual) to Vongerichtified (aristocratic, exclusive, separate). We are moving away from democracy, from a city in which all kinds of people--classes, races, ethnicities--mix and mingle.

What, then, are we becoming?


JamesChanceOfficial said...

Jeremiah - if you missed it, you might enjoy this article from the Sunday Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/fashion/23envy.html?scp=4&sq=michael+barbaro&st=nyt

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks karate--that's a great article!

AJM said...

You might want to check out the new novel Lush Life by Richard Price. It's a sort of panoramic look at the gentrification of the lower east, the worlds of cops, bohos, projects kids, Chinese people, etc. It has a sort of Keith McNally-esque restauranteur among the characters. Really interesting stuff, and always has me thinking about the streetscape as I bike up Allen Street each day, how many stories there are out there.

Anonymous said...

Lived two blocks from the Beatrice. Summer '05, neighbor told me the Beatrice would be changing, becoming a hangout for the newly fabulous - at the time it seemed inconceivable. But this was before the Waverly Inn became a mecca for those needing attention. Why don't they raze the West Village and turn it into a gated community?

L'Emmerdeur said...

We are becoming a fascist state, with all the trappings that entails.

Anonymous said...

I used to go the Beatrice when it was a restaurant. Food wasn't anything special, but the people were. I remember the first night I ate there I overheard a conversation between regulars - seemed like everyone had been in the Koch administration or ex-judges or some sort of big-wig from 30 years ago. Felt like I walked into a time machine and found a lost stronghold of the NYC old-guard. Plus, Cousin Brucie would still eat there.

Anonymous said...

I first encountered the Beatrice Inn back in the 1960's when it was one of the restaurants recommended in NY on 5$ A Day. Good plain food, at very modest prices. When we moved back into Manhattan in 2000 we would go up there for lunch or dinner. What a shame it is no more. Same goes for the Waverly Inn, another "in" spot.

Anonymous said...

I know this is old news to most but I had an awful experience in the east village this weekend. Now I tend to stay in brooklyn these days but I took some friends around to my old haunts, what the hell happened to the east village? it was a strange place to me, I grew up here spent a lot of my years downtown enjoying gritty cheap bars and cafes. Its just one big NYU dorm now. It was like I was in little Tokyo, wealthy well dressed asians students were crawding the streets. St Marks is wal to wall country japanese food. Where are my artists where are my weirdos, Manhattan has become sterile, used only for trendy lable seekers and their rich rich parents.

Tim said...

Kinda makes me laugh, because that was just the beginning...check out the obnoxiousness in the new issue of New York Magazine..