By Mitch Broder
Every restaurant in New York City has an autograph from Ernie Anastos.
Emilio’s Ballato Restaurant has an autograph from everyone else.
Actually, Ernie’s pretty trim for a guy who’s eaten at 25,000 places, but that’s a topic for another post. The point here is that Emilio’s is a place where celebrities can hide from the world — after which they can see to it that the world knows they were there.
It makes sense if you’re a celebrity, and it makes sense if you’re Emilio Vitolo. He’s proud of his clients, so he serves them, then takes their names. On his walls are four giant canvases covered with the signatures of famous people from assorted disciplines and assorted eras.
“These people, they come here, they eat,” Emilio says. “Nobody bothers them. Nobody cares.” The canvases, he says, are “a memory that when I go, I leave to my kids, to show that I met these beautiful people. They could go anywhere in the world, but they come to me.”
One reason is that he’s not so easy to come to. Emilio’s is a single restaurant that’s in at least six different neighborhoods. New York magazine says it’s in the East Village, Time Out New York has it in both Little Italy and Chinatown, Citysearch calls it NoLita, and Yelp puts it in NoHo, while Emilio himself maintains that he’s in SoHo.
Katz’s hot dogs.
Emilio has given the restaurant its current old look, but it really is old; John Ballato opened it in 1956. Emilio is the third owner, and he takes his stewardship seriously. That’s why he didn’t ask me to sign one of the canvases.
I understood. It didn’t hurt my feelings.
And anyway, I know that my status will change after my post about Ernie Anastos.
Sign in at Emilio’s Ballato Restaurant, at 55 East Houston Street, between Mulberry and Mott streets, in the neighborhood of your choice in Manhattan.