Sunday, August 21, 2011

Marchi's Restaurant: New York City's Longest Wait for a Menu

Marchi’s Restaurant New York City Midtown Garden

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.

Marchi’s Restaurant New York City Midtown Antipasto
This is just the beginning.
They bring you fresh fruits and vegetables. They bring you tuna and salami. They bring you lasagna. They bring you fried fish. They bring you more vegetables. Then they bring the main course.

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.

Marchi’s Restaurant New York City Midtown Interior Dining Tables
This was in 1930, when Louis De Marco lived upstairs. He smelled the Marchis’ cooking each night till he couldn’t take it anymore. He begged to join them for dinner. He said he’d pay fifty cents. He brought friends, and they brought friends, and everyone brought fifty cents.

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.

And Liberace.

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.


  1. What a cool place you found. Although the preparing of the same meal each night would surely get dull after a long while the shopping list for stocking and prepping the kitchen would be mighty simple to keep track of! Added bonus for folks who are having trouble reading menus since there are none to struggle with. Surely a deal at $51.75 to boot ~ thanks!

  2. Looks veeeeery inviting. Mouthwatering descriptions of the fare. You've got me.