We have squeezed one more volume onto our shelves, a book whose idea is so appealing it’s hard to believe it doesn’t already exist.
Classic Dining is a tribute to America’s last great old-fashioned restaurants, places where the waiters still dress up even when customers don’t. The diner pictured on page 78 in a black T-shirt and cargo shorts, hunched over his plate at Antoine’s in New Orleans is an unwelcome real world intrusion into a book filled with restaurants straight out of mid-century fantasy.
More than just a listing of what’s survived, this is an overview of regional styles and variation, with chapters on The Rise And Fall Of The American Tiki Temple and Continental-Style Fine Dining, all illustrated with wonderful photographs and ephemera. What could be a disheartening roll call becomes hopeful in author Peter Moruzzi’s hands. The precarious nature of the hospitality business is an unavoidable reality, but these establishments are treated as grand old stalwarts, proud of their history. A 10-page directory of survivors is also heartening, and includes a few we’ve put on our guides to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with many earmarked for future trips.
Classic Dining is a tremendous piece of work that’s as fun to look at as it is useful. We admire Peter Moruzzi for this fine book almost as much as we do for his intestinal fortitude.
Classic Dining: Discovering America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants. Peter Moruzzi, phototographs by Sven A Kirsten (Gibbs Smith) Available here.