By: Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy
Delmonico’s in New York City was the first establishment to use the name “restaurant.” They were the first restaurant to have printed menus. They were the first restaurant to offer a cookbook. They were the first restaurant to serve women sitting without men at their own table (how shocking!)
Delmonico’s was also the first dining establishment in America to price individual dishes à la carte, as was the custom in Paris. Before this, American inns served one price and only one dish–no menu. Everyone was charged the same fixed price whether they ate more or less than other patrons. They were also the first to open (for a while) the Delmonico Hotel, without the standard “room and board” pricing, but charged for room and meals separately.
They were the first restaurant considered to be “fine dining,” attracting celebrities and presidents alike. By 1862, Chef de Cuisine, Charles Ranhofer, created some of the most famous American dishes, such as Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg and Chicken A la Keene (yes, not “King”). Ranhofer published his cookbook, “The Epicurean,” in 1894.
Their first three restaurants were all destroyed by fire, after which they purchased a triangular lot in Lower Manhattan and opened their landmark restaurant at Williams Street in 1837. Marketing geniuses, they claimed the two Corinthian columns at the portico were “salvaged” from Pompeii (many dispute this claim). Continue reading at Grand Voyage Italy.