What’s it like working with family? You work with your two brothers. What’s it like channeling those three separate visions? Do you have very defined roles?
We have distinctly very different visions, all three of us. When we were younger it was much more antagonistic. We’ve now developed an ability to step back and respect a little bit of the others’ opinion. We understand that – like a relationship – you’re not always going to see eye to eye, but respecting the other person’s opinion is important. We’ve separated a lot of the jobs and things like that. If it comes to more food-oriented decisions, it may be myself. If it is more managerial, service or wine issues, it’s my brother Marco. My brother Mario purposely moved 3,000 miles away to get away from the craziness so he could be his own boss in Las Vegas. He’s out there, and he’s involved in a lot of the decision making. He’s more of the businessman. We definitely all love each other; we definitely all want to kill each other occasionally. But I think for the most part, we make it work.
And how big of a role is Sirio still playing?
Sirio is very, very much involved and we’re happy about that. He gave us a very good education, and you know, we get out a little more; we see certain things. So, we feel that on occasion we’d like for him to let us make some more decisions. Right now, let’s just say decisions are made by a committee. He, my mother and my brothers and I each get one vote. It’s kind of democratic. But still, his instincts are very sharp. And as much as it is an equal vote, his vote is the most deterministic.
People have always called him a Ringmaster. Is your restaurant business still like a circus?
Well he’s still quite involved, like I said. He’s still in the dining room. In his younger days – when we were in the original Le Cirque location – it was a small location and really was a concentration of the ‘who’s who’ of New York, be it the financial world, movie stars, artists or politicians. It was really one of – if not the place – the places to be. Now in this day and age, we’re competing with a lot of other people and they’re spread out. Like I say, Le Cirque still has great success, but it doesn’t have the concentration of power that it used to have back in the 80’s and 90’s. My father was a ringmaster in the sense that it was a small space, and there were so many egos to satisfy. This person wanted to sit next to this person; two famous people would want the same table. It really was a juggling act between service and accommodating all these difficult-to-please-guests.
Do you think it’s less of a focused group because of how many options there are now in the New York restaurant world? It was such a golden age of restaurants back then, but almost because there were less options.
Yes, back then there were less options. Back then it was a handful of places – the whole downtown scene didn’t exist. Like I said, whether you were in the political world, media or finance, there were small little fancy French places on the Upper East Side or Midtown to go to. And you’d know them. The Four Seasons was one of course. La Caravelle and Le Perigord. Places like this really were the attraction. Now there are a billion options. We still attract our fair share of important people, but Le Cirque isn’t solely based on that anymore. We want to return our focus back to food and service, and a grand experience for the guest. We want people to come in here and feel elegant and pampered. Be it the most important person in New York or not.
When you were younger and you would be in the restaurant, is there one memorable person you remember coming in that was a big deal?
I remember Ronald Reagan coming in, in 1980. I was about eight. There were so many people that were regulars. Jackie Onassis was there all the time. I remember Richard Nixon. On Saturday morning I had to work, and he’d come in for Saturday lunches and I would serve him coffee.