Perhaps nobody has eaten at Gino, the red sauce staple on Lex, more than writer Gay Talese (above, second from left). And certainly no one has written about it more. He's penned odes to the place in the New York Times and the New Yorker and in book form. The place is due to close permanently on May 29, leaving Talese desolate, no doubt. I thought it appropriate to reprint part of a piece Talese published. However, Talese tends to write the same things about his favorite restaurant over and over again. So I'm posting a piece by Anthony Haden-Guest (above, left) from New York magazine in 1977 (back when it was New York magazine, and not a shopping guide for the city's affluent). It has a bit more originality. Lovely intro. Read:
Saturday at Gino's
It is 12:30 p.m. on a perfectly ordinary Saturday, and things in Gino's are proceeding in a perfectly ordinary way, which is to say with mounting turbulence. The regulars are already in place. The dapper former aide to both Hughes and Onassis is wedged between the telephone and a pair of willowy women. Two movie execs are loudly talking contract. Beefy men in early middle age are talking about hangovers and stock options, and there is a tossing spume up front as a quartet of fashionable ladies tense to grab an about-to-be-vacated table. And a glum blonde is sitting at the bar, over a margarita.
Gino is standing where the bar ends and the tables begin. Gino is Gino Circiello, the most noticeable of the three partners in this restaurant, the one from whom it derives its name. He is wearing a pin-striped suit of exceeding sobriety and a silk tie stiff enough to slice veal piccata. He is also wearing his habitual expression, a mingling of alertness and great caution.
So far today no trouble looms. Somebody wants to cash a check. A Roman writer. No problem. Gino's refuses plastic but respects paper. Banco di Gino, joke the New York Italians. A writer occupying a table for four alone explains he is waiting for two bellissime raggazze. One has just been to Italy to see Bertolucci. She may, by now, be a star. At the bar, Carlo, a former frogman with Prince Borghese's Decima Mas, is dishing out Bloody Marys to the increasingly rowdy Wall Streeters. Gino eyes them, briefly. And the blonde? A slip of a thing, decorously dressed, but with pink, glutinous lipstick. Chewy, and alone. Gino gives her a long, careful look.
One of the beefy businessmen approaches him. He has earlier confided his technique. "I always owe a couple of hundred bucks," he says. "I always get a table.." He gets no table. "Gino runs a hugely successful place," observes Lucio Manisco, Il Messaggero correspondent, who has eaten therein for fourteen years, "and he has one big anxiety. He doesn't know why."
There's about two-thirds more of the article in the New York archives if you care to look.