Potential Buyer Is Found for Gino
By ANDREW KEH
For more than 60 years, regulars have gone to Gino, an old fashioned red-sauce joint on the Upper East Side, for veal parmigiana, chicken cacciatore, and zebras.
The veal and chicken are reliable staples on a menu that has not changed much since the restaurant opened in 1945; the famous zebras appear on the wallpaper of a dining room that has over the years accommodated its share of celebrity clientele — Ed Sullivan and Frank Sinatra are said to have been regulars — and even made a celebrity cameo itself in the opening scene of Woody Allen’s 1995 film “Mighty Aphrodite.”
But Gino could be in danger of closing, employees said this week, because the restaurant’s owners and unionized workers have failed to reach an agreement on a new contract.
The restaurant’s only lifeline now appears to be a potential buyer who was unexpectedly revealed by the current owners in a Thursday morning meeting that workers originally thought would signal the start of closing proceedings.
The workers’ last contract expired Oct. 31. Since then, the two sides have met six times to try to negotiate a new agreement, said Marco Dell’Aguzzo, the shop steward, who has worked as a waiter at Gino for 24 years.
As late as Wednesday night, employees of Gino seemed resigned to the fact that the restaurant would close by the end of this month. Earlier in the week, they rejected a final proposal from Michael Miele, one of the restaurant’s owners. But in the meeting Thursday morning, Mr. Miele surprised everyone when he revealed that he had found a potential buyer for the restaurant, Mr. Dell’Aguzzo said.
Mr. Miele is supposed to meet with the potential buyer next Wednesday. Mr. Miele will then meet with Mr. Dell’Aguzzo and a union representative on Friday to reassess the situation.
Mr. Miele did not respond to messages left at the restaurant Thursday afternoon, and Mr. Dell’aguzzo declined to provide specifics of the negotiations or details of the potential buyer until after the meeting next week.
“Until we have all the facts, everything is in the air,” Mr. Dell’Aguzzo said in a phone interview Thursday night. “On Friday, we’ll know everything.”
In February, Mr. Miele told Diner’s Journal that the restaurant’s profits had gone down by as much as 70 percent in the last couple of years.
“If business stays like this, if it doesn’t pick up we can’t afford to stay open, we’re losing money,” Mr. Miele said at the time.
The restaurant does maintain a loyal following.
In 2006, Frank Bruni wrote for The New York Times that part of Gino’s draw was its “sense of timelessness.” For many of its regulars, he wrote, “Gino is their home away from home.”
But the celebrities are gone, as is some of the place’s old luster.
And though the fate of Gino will be much clearer next week, the veal and the chicken and the zebras may soon be gone as well.
What's with suicidal restaurant unions this year?