Pete Wells Letter re: Le Cirque

September 20, 2012

Pete Wells
c/o The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY  10018


Dear Pete:


I’m a Pete Wells fan.


But I do have some concerns and a few urgent thoughts about your Le Cirque piece.


My very first reaction was to wonder how the hell you could do this to Sirio Maccioni.  And I even started to dash off a letter to Arthur Sulzberger asking the publisher of my beloved Times the same question I put to you.  Indeed, I’ve often seen your own publisher in Sirio’s care and keeping and he always seemed to be enjoying himself … as did his father before him.


However, after several more readings of your review, I realized that you did indeed endeavor to be respectful of this great man.  Sirio is not only the most graceful and attractive individual in his profession, he is also the most generous and inspiring.


I was also pleased to note that you bestowed on the Le Cirque captains, waiters and staff the approval they rightly deserve.  But I have to note that you quite missed the glamour and vibe of the place and the fun to be had of an evening at Sirio’s beckoning tables.  And I’m afraid I found, in general, a lack of respect for Le Cirque itself as a beloved, enduring and endearing New York institution.


We can argue over starsI would have given them at least two even if I had written your particular piece.  But I must share with you my very real disappointment that a professional journalist and critic of your stature and standing would lay off on one of your “companions” that devastating, bleak, cutting – and not a little mean-spirited – observation: “They’ve given up.”  That one deeply hurt all of Sirio’s friends and admirers.


And it surely had to have disappointed not only Sirio, but his wife Egidiana and their sons as well who work so damn hard to provide an agreeable and welcoming venue for – as you have pointed out – all comers.


They really are wonderful people, Pete.  And although I too had my own “issues” with the current chef, I don’t believe the Maccioni Family deserved the savage pummeling you gave them … or the humiliation of losing two stars by your hand.


FYI:  I stopped in for a quick drink just last night and to see if I could detect any “damage” to the place.  Eighty-year-old Maestro Sirio was as always beautifully attired and sitting by the coatroom signing copies of the new Le Cirque cookbook and missing nothing in a low-cut dress or with shapely legs coming through the door.  He was also dictating to his new amanuensis – a spectacular blond woman (who, I’m told, is an authentic baroness). 


A vivid and immensely popular New York character named Gianni Russo, one of the stars of “The Godfather,” was swanning about the place fielding compliments on his sold out turn the night before in Le Cirque’s Wine Bar lounge which was packed with not a few Park Avenue dames with blueing in their hair and also some very “interesting” and colorful Las Vegas, bada-bing types (and it’s probably better if I don’t tell you any more about their background or lineage). 

Russo does his crooner act featuring Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and Johnny Mercer songs once every month with four marvelous musicians in black tie, and all of them of a certain age.


And, as occurs most every night, with it all, everybody was having fun in a perfectly luxe setting.  So, in addition to the greatness and goodness of Sirio, that, I think is really what you missed in your review.  Sure, there may be better, more exquisite, pristine offerings of food to be had abroad in the land.   But in most other venues of the type, nobody is having any damn fun at their serious tables.


And, to be sure, there are some tired old loreleis around still hanging on to faded reputations.  Sadly many now resemble sidemen in orchestras long dispersed.  But Le Cirque is still a vibrant, exciting and altogether unique venue.  Is it then the “charm” of Le Cirque you missed?  Or perhaps the “charisma” of the place?


Anyway, The Great Sirio remains a beloved – and universally respected – icon of the profession you usually cover with such grace and brilliance.  And Le Cirque itself remains sui generis.


I’m only sorry a bright guy and gifted writer like you didn’t pick up on its music.


But one day, like Ruth Reichl, maybe you will.


We all hope so …



William O’Shaughnessy
President & Editorial Director