Monday, February 13, 2012

Alonzo's Is Gonzos

During the recent New York City Hangout In Real Life (HIRL) our merry little group walked along 44th Street from Times Square to Grand Central Terminal. This route took us past an old vacant building that used to house one of my all time favorite restaurants in Manhattan. It brought back memories.

photo by: Robert Redl
When I joined Lehrer McGovern Bovis in September of 1991 the company was located on Park Avenue South and 28th Street. In addition to spending my first year as head of IT upgrading the infrastructure and sorting out staff issues, I was appointed to the relocation committee and given the task of designing the network for our new office uptown. Early in 1992 we moved into the 9th floor of 200 Park Avenue, that iconic building that straddles Park Avenue, over the top of Grand Central Terminal, known as the Met Life Building but more famously as the Pan Am Building.

What a difference a few subway stops can make. We were now in midtown and at the eastern edge of the theater district. Finding a place for lunch was easy. But finding one that was affordable was another story. At that time, the food court in Grand Central hadn't been built yet. There was no Apple Store, in fact, that staircase hadn't been built yet either.

photo by: Robert Redl
Quite by chance one day I wandered into a small Italian restaurant called Alonzo's. It was housed in a narrow, two story building a couple of blocks from the office. The food was excellent and the prices very reasonable. It became my go to place for business lunches and even social dinner occasions. I became friendly with the owner Don Alonzo, his maitre'd Antonio and one waiter named Robert.

For years I would take member of my staff, business associates, customers and friends to this restaurant. Being a frequent customer we were always treated special. There was my usual table in the back corner and no matter what, Robert was always my waiter.

Even after I moved on from LMB and began to work in Connecticut, Alonzo's was our restaurant of choice when we were in Manhattan to see a show or any other reason. I recall vividly the times my wife and I brought the children, then quite young, and how Robert paid such special attention to them. They were amused by his Austrian accent.

photo by: Robert Redl
Sadly, I also recall the day Don told me the landlord was raising the rent to a point where he could no longer afford to remain in this location. He was moving to the East side near the United Nations plaza. That was well over ten years ago and to this day the building on 44th Street is still vacant. With the real estate crash I am sure its not worth as much as it once was and what a pity that the landlord couldn't appreciate his tenant as much as I did. We might have been able to stop in and say hello and share a glass of wine the day we walked by on our way to Grand Central.

In the years after his move to the East side, I went to the new Alonzo's with my family a couple of times for dinner but it just wasn't the same. I can only assume others felt the same as a recent search will confirm Alonzo's is no more.

Captain Joe

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