Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Life & Times of Antonio Sivori (Part II)

New York City, 
1869-1881 


By June 1872, Antonio Sivori was the proprietor of St. Mark’s Restaurant at 27th Street and Broadway, situated inside the newly-completed Stevens House. Designed by the country’s leading architect, Richard Morris Hunt, the mansard-capped building was the first apartment complex of its kind. The eight-story structure occupied the entire south side of 27th Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue, and yet it contained only eighteen luxury suites.1 Then thirty-nine years old, Sivori appears to have operated this restaurant for only about one year. Well-educated and fluent in six languages, he should have been able to work well with members of high society, but for some reason, he kept moving from job to job throughout his career, sometimes working at places you might least suspect.2

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Life and Times of Antonio Sivori (Part I)

New York City, 
1869-1881 


One morning last spring, while combing through a box of old menus, I stumbled across a lost chapter of American social history. There had been only a brief opportunity to examine the tattered contents of this box before purchasing it, and I was now sorting through the hodge-podge of papers more carefully, hoping to find a hidden gem, when it suddenly occurred to me that forty-five of the menus from New York might somehow be related to each other. As I separated these from the others, and arranged them in chronological order from 1869 to 1881, an intriguing narrative began to take shape, for it appeared they had once belonged to a hotel steward named Antonio Sivori. No longer remembered, Sivori was well-known in his day, catering some of the city’s most important social events.1, 2