By Mitch Broder
In the end, it doesn’t matter that they have no menu at Marchi’s, because they bring you every food that would be on the menu if they had one.
|This is just the beginning.|
That would be the roast chicken and the sliced roast veal, along with the cooked mushrooms and the fresh tossed salad. Then they bring more fruit, cheese, lemon fritters, and crostoli. The only thing they don’t bring is seconds. Then again, no one has asked.
This is the meal they serve six nights a week. This is the meal you eat if you want dinner. It is a five-course Italian feast in Manhattan that has yet to cost fifty dollars — but is finally going to, starting next month, so go now to save two bucks.
A few restaurants have no menu because they are trying to be chic. Marchi’s has no menu because it was Lorenzo and Francesca’s apartment. They started a restaurant in it because Lorenzo had a bad hernia operation and couldn’t keep working in construction. But both of them could cook.
By 1935, the entire apartment was a dining room. The Marchis still made one dinner, though they made a different dinner each night. During the war, because of shortages, they made the same dinner each night. After the war, they went back to different dinners. But by then it was too late.
“Our customers weren’t in favor of that,” says Lorenzo and Francesca’s son Mario. “They said: ‘What the hell are you doing?’ It lasted a year or two. They wanted what we had been doing, not what we were doing.” The family agreed on one meal. They’ve been serving it for sixty-six years.
Lorenzo and Francesca are gone, except on the walls, but the restaurant is run by Mario and his wife Christine, and Mario’s brothers, John and Robert. I sat with Mario, Christine, and John one afternoon, and they shared their history. Then they shared their autograph book.
It contains names including Sophia Loren, Joe DiMaggio, and Donald O’Connor. It also contains names that none of us could read. But the brothers recall serving Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, Nat King Cole, Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Toscanini and Pavarotti.
And Grace Kelly.
Today the restaurant has five rooms, yet it still feels like Grandma and Grandpa’s house. And it still feels like a secret club: Along with no menu, it has no sign. The only thing on the outside is a family coat of arms. Christine says people peek in and ask, “Is this an embassy?”
Dinner is $49.75 till September 1st, when it becomes $51.75. I haven’t tried it yet, but the Marchis fed me their sweet crunchy crostoli.
I can now say confidently that I would pay $51.75 for five courses including that pastry, along with the opportunity to make absolutely no decisions for a whole night.