I've never reviewed a book before, but I just finished one that is essential reading if you're interested in fine food, good restaurants, the business of good restaurants, or the history of dining out in America since World War Two. That sentence was quite a mouthful, but then again SIRIO is quite a book. And Sirio Maccioni is quite a guy, and arguably America's most influential Restaurateur of the past 50 years. A lot of big cheeses in the food world make that argument in the pages of SIRIO, but the most compelling voice comes from Sirio's first person accounts of everything from watching his father die from a bomb at the end of the war, to battling with supercilious French waiters, to arguing with Frank Sinatra over what comprises "real" Italian food.. Suffice it to say that when it came to judging the right stuff, 'ol Blue Eyes was quite a singer.
SIRIO takes you on his journey from war-torn Italy to France, Germany and America, learning languages and all about fine food along the way, until he finally had a front row seat...well actually he built the tent and made his own front row seat to observe the circus of America's rich and famous. He literally catered to them-for the last 40 years--and managed to juggle it all, and keep his sanity, and the respect of everyone from his dishwashers to Ronald Reagan (who he told at his inaugural that he DIDN'T vote for).
The anecdotes about the follies of socialites and movie stars are the appetizers that me laugh out loud throughout the book, but the details of what it takes (both in business and in a man), to make a world-class restaurant is the entree you will not grow tired of feasting on.
I can't walk into any of the Maccioni's establishments anymore without being recognized and getting the big deal meal treatment. But my favorite memory of Le Cirque is from many years ago, before I had any voice or influence or whatever this gig gives me in the restaurant world.
It was quite past the lunch hour when Food Gal #2 and I looked up and right in front of us was Le Cirque 2000--The Holy Grail of fine dining in New York City. And here we were, a couple of schmucks from Vegas peering in the front door, wondering if we could just get a peek. No sooner had we peered in than a well-dressed maitre'd inquired if we were hungry. I timidly said yes, and we were led into a once-full dining room, thinking we should order and eat quickly, to avoid getting the bum's rush. What we got was a captain, then a waiter, and then the maitre'd, who took care of us as if we were the most important guests at the beginning of their day. When we couldn't decide on appetizers, a bevy of them showed up, ditto desserts, a taste or two of several wines, then a tour of the kitchen. By 4:30 we were sated, glowing and happy, and fans for life.
Whether you've eaten in his restaurants or not, a slow, savored reading of SIRIO, will do the same for you.
Maccioni family restaurants in Las Vegas are Le Cirque and Circo at Bellagio.