Wednesday, August 24, 2016


I regret that I never went into Asti, closed in 1999 after 75 years as "one of New York's most beloved and treasured restaurants."

You may remember, it was the place on E. 12th Street where the waitstaff sang opera while they served Italian dishes. Said one baritone at the time of the closure, "In the last decade, our customers either died, retired, or could no longer afford to come regularly."

If you missed it as I missed it--or if you just miss it--watch this extensive video report I recently came across:


Scout said...

I had a roommate who worked there in the late 80s, and was dating a bartender. I used to drop by to visit once in a while. The place had a truly weird vibe, but a fun NYC weird vibe. A lot lime the old GH Club, if anyone remembers that place.

JamesChanceOfficial said...

I only went there once (and enjoyed it!), but what I really loved about Asti was their simple & elegant neon sign.

Adam Weiner said...

Never went either, but always lived their deco neon sign

Unknown said...

Sorry you never got to visit Asti Jeremiah, I didn't either, but the presentation did include the Feast of San Gennaro which I always attended and probably was there at the time of this documentation.

The New York from my childhood and early adult years was filled with a sense that NYC had it all and it was all there waiting for you to discover for yourself. There was everything from cultural institutions and concert venues to the smaller every day establishments and businesses that helped people get through their day or get what they needed.

These places were the heart and soul of the city and you kind of expected they would always be there or at least be there till they were no longer useful and then fade away peacefully. I always assumed they would be there when I needed or was at a stage in my life when they would be more useful to me. After all nothing changed in many of these places for 50 to 100 years! I even remember at times feeling overwhelmed because I knew I would never be able to see and do it all in my lifetime. Well, I guess my feelings were warranted because the time-line of events happened much quicker than I would have ever imagined.

Instead of a city containing a mix of variety, change, and familiarity where neighborhoods might transform as things naturally evolve over time, we have witnessed a sort of abrupt curtain call. The city has been re-invented as if it were in an episode of the "Twilight Zone" where all the inhabitants went to bed to wake up in a city that was completely different. Not quite a nightmare, but definitely a disturbing surreal transformation where an old school native feels suddenly out of place. I still have those feelings of being overwhelmed, only this time its because I keep waiting for the next curtain to close on another traditional New York institution.

Kathleen said...

Never stopped in but also loved walking by that sign.

Karen said...

Also featured in the movie BIG.

Jim Holt said...

Asti was a ludicrous awful cringe-inducing tourist-trap, as Seymour Britchky's legendary review from the '70s vividly attests. And yet, I suppose, I miss Asti. What I miss much more is the 12th Street Bookstore below it, which was driven out by the still more awful chain steakhouse that took Asti's place.

Unknown said...

No One Knows What To Do ?
I know what to do.
The city needs to implement a graduating vacancy tax.
This will solve the problem caused by too much wealth in too few hands.
If they can wait for years for large chain stores or anchor tenants they need to be "encouraged" to put
the properties back into service before the neighborhoods die.

step45 said...

In the '80's, worked midtown east hotel. We referred to the GH Club as General Hospital. No disrespect!!!

JimmyD said...

A very dear friend of mine, Tom Coviello, was a waiter at Asti (and can been seen in'Big'). I'd go there every now and then to say Hi.
One regular, a Mr Raul Julia, would drink a lot and sing brilliantly.
I miss all three, Raul, Asti, but mostly Tom.