25 February 2008

Crowds and Lennon at Cafe La Fortuna's Last Day

Cafe La Fortuna did not forget its most famous patron on its last day in business. On Sunday, capacity crowds listening to "Mind Games" on the stereo and watched a series of short films featuring Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the Upper West Side's small flat-screen television.

There was barely room to breathe at the small 71st Street cafe, which recently decided to pack it in after rents skyrocketed and one of the two owners died. Dozens packed the two rooms of small wooden tables, while a line ran out the door. By their bohemian, somewhat older, slightly mangy look, the customers appeared to be died-in-the-wool Upper West Siders, the kind of well-read, left-leaning people who used to dominate the neighborhood before the yuppies and richies moved in over the past decade. Unsmiling counter staff were busy fixing endless orders of salads and pastries. One man of unknown affiliation was filming the scene, presumedly for the news. Others (like moi) made due with digital cameras. Everyone seemed to know that something special was passing into history.

In the window, the sole remaining owner, Vincent Urward (whose co-owner wife had passed), posted a sign which began "Cafe La Fortuna has become another casualty of an out of control real estate market." That's "out of control," not healthy, not robust, not vigorous; call it what it is. "[We wish] to acknowledge no animosity toward any single landlord." That's all right, Vince; I'll acknowledge him: New landlord, you suck. May you choke on every new dollar you get from your new tenant, and may the scolding phantasm of John Lennon haunt your sleep.


Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to stumble across this cafe when visiting NYC for the first time in 2002. I made it a point to go there every other time I visited New York. I am so saddened to hear this place is gone. RIP...I have pictures to prove how happy this place made me.

Richard Urwand said...

Me and my Family had a great time serving the public. We thank all of you for the Great Memories.cafe la fortuna

Unknown said...

I started coming to this cafe in 1987 when I was 17 years old and went everytime I was in NY. I would spend hours in the garden drinking iced cappuccinos with Italian ice. Some of my happiest New York memories were at cafe la fortuna. I just made an appointment at the Drybar and looked up the address and couldn't believe that's what is occupying that sacred space. I still have my t-shirt, thank goodness.