Dining: Le Cirque Is Back in Town

  • Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Sirio Maccioni may be 74 and the owner of several successful restaurants, including branches of Le Cirque in Las Vegas and Mexico City, but he remains vulnerable to the slings and arrows of bad reviews. After a prominent newspaper publishes a lukewarm review of the third Manhattan version of Le Cirque, which opened in late spring in Midtown’s Bloomberg Building, he rants against the writer. “Some people don’t like Le Cirque,” says Maccioni, “but I don’t go by what reviewers say; I go by what the public says. And we’re sold out. New Yorkers like Le Cirque.”

Reviewers have vexed him since his tenure at the Colony, the clubby Manhattan establishment where he made his name during the 1960s. Nevertheless, Maccioni’s philosophy has remained consistent throughout the history of Le Cirque, the original of which opened in 1974: Serve the diners what they want, even if it is something as simple as a fried egg, and treat the regulars very, very well. Maccioni’s consistency also is apparent in his hiring designer Adam Tihany to shape the restaurant’s interior (Le Cirque is Tihany’s sixth project for Maccioni) and enlisting Pierre Schaedelin, Le Cirque 2000’s final chef, to helm the kitchen.

Maccioni is consistent, but not necessarily inflexible. Although he once refused to allow Frank Zappa into the first Le Cirque unless he wore a tie, Maccioni no longer insists on neckwear but requires that Le Cirque’s male diners wear jackets. More significant than the change in dress code is the change in venue for Le Cirque. Unlike the previous two incarnations, this Le Cirque is not located inside a hotel. Soured relations with hotel management prompted Maccioni to close Le Cirque 2000 at the New York Palace in late 2004, a year before the lease expired. (The first Le Cirque closed in 1996, and Le Cirque 2000 opened in 1997.) As he did at Le Cirque 2000, Marco Maccioni, Sirio’s 38-year-old son, works alongside his father at the new restaurant. (Maccioni’s eldest son, Mario, minds Le Cirque Las Vegas, and Mauro, the youngest, focuses on the New York branch of Osteria del Circo.) “He can fire gunshot after gunshot at me, and I am a Kevlar vest,” Marco says. “I’m good at coexisting with him because I do what he says.”

When asked if his father works the 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week that he claims, Marco laughs and says, “He’s literally crazy. Work, for him, is his fitness program and his stress-reliever, believe it or not. He thrives on his work. If he doesn’t see the restaurant pumping, he gets depressed. It’s as much therapy as it is punishment.”

Le Cirque’s plush main dining room was designed by Adam Tihany.

Le Cirque,
212.644.0202,
www.lecirque.com

Photo by James Lipman
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