Opening its doors on the bottom floor of a brownstone at 64 West 11th Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in 1908, Enrico & Paglieri would soon become one of the first and most popular Italian Restaurants in New York City and would give countless New Yorkers their first – ever – taste of Italian cuisine.
They served house favorites, such as of minestrone, risotto, lobster diavolo, ossobuco and their specialty, chicken. The restaurant had a unique, stained glass-enclosed, electric rotisserie which spit out twenty-four, golden and delicious birds every twenty minutes.
A complete meal, including a bottle of wine, cost the customer of Enrico & Paglieri a grand total of 55 cents (the equivalent of about $15).
Owned and operated by Enrico and Josephine Fasani and sister and brother in-law, Vittoria and Paulo Paglieri, the restaurant personified the Edwardian aesthetic with its great dining hall, white table cloths, capped napkins, bentwood chairs, stained glass and hanging vines.
Its welcoming atmosphere and great food would soon attract many of the artists, writers, musicians, poets and the avant-garde living in the village.
The following description of the popular restaurant was written for a New York Diner’s Guide in 1939:
“… off lower Fifth Avenue, on the street that retains the flavor of Old New York. On the left, as you enter the restaurant, is the Clover Leaf Bar, an attractive room , but the place to go is the main dining room in the rear, one of the most spacious dining rooms in New York and splendid for your purposes if you happen to be an international spy or in love. Some of the tables are so remote from all others that no one could possibly hear your conversation except the waiter.”
By 1948, the restaurant was even bigger, encompassing the garden level of three brownstones.
The two couples ran the restaurant for decades, then Vittoria took over when Paulo died in 1950. After this, Vittoria and Paulo’s two sons took over until the late 1960s, at which time it was purchased by a restaurant chain and subsequently closed in the early 70s.
In the mid-seventies, Vittoria, died at the age of 94 in the apartment above the restaurant where she had lived for decades. A newspaper article reported the remnants of her estate heaped into a refuse pile after her death.
Can you imagine what was lost?
The brownstones still exists (now converted apartments) and one still has the elaborate wrought iron balcony with the restaurant’s initials hanging over the building’s entrance.
The hand-painted fan here was made in Japan, is 8.25 inches long, and is in good to very good condition with the Chrysanthemums (an important Japanese symbol representing longevity and rejuvenation) painted on the fan still vibrant. The fan’s lovely, hand-painted box has some damage to the top but is intact (and has a hatpin still in it).
The fan was probably given as a promotional gift to female guests of the restaurant and it has a charming notation written in ink, “School of Ed Dinner. Tuesday, July 8, 1929.”
Very precious item, especially for New York history lovers.
If you’re interested in purchasing this item, it’s available in my Etsy Shop, Channeling Nonna.