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Check your Gage … and Tollner

The Brooklyn Paper

It’s like history is repeating itself all over again.

The owner of the famous Downtown restaurant Gage and Tollner plans to reopen the Victorian hotspot within the next two years — and he’s bringing an 1890s atmosphere with him.

Joseph Chirico, who still owns the steakhouse’s legendary name after closing it in 2004, told The Brooklyn Paper this week that he wants to reopen elsewhere in Brooklyn with his son, Marco — who will graduate from the culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in 2010 — as head chef.

“It will be exactly the same — the same menu, and we still have all of the furniture,” Chirico said of the tables and chairs he took with him when he closed up shop. “We’re going to redo the same interior, the same decoration.”

Chirico closed the original Gage and Tollner — which moved to Fulton Street between Pearl and Jay streets in 1892 — because he couldn’t make ends meet. He then sold the building to its current owner for a reported $2.5 million. But he long dreamt of reopening a similar restaurant, and now sees the perfect opportunity with his son.

“He is young — that’s what it needs,” Chirico said. “Young blood, new ideas, and it’s an adventure.”

Fully replicating the original will be a challenge. The Landmarks Preservation Council designated the restaurant’s interior grand floor dining room as a landmark in 1975, which included fixed pieces like the arched mirrors, deep red cherry wood paneling, and the 36 famous gas lamps. The building’s exterior was landmarked in 1974.

The tables and aren’t part of the landmarked status because they aren’t permanent fixtures, explained Landmarks spokeswoman Elisabeth De Bourbon.

That furniture is in a storage facility, but Chirico said he would love to acquire the original brass lights.

“If I can get [them] I would. If not, I will get replicas,” he vowed.

When Chirico purchased the restaurant in 1995, he spent a year painstakingly renovating the 130-year-old restaurant to its original splendor. Chirico, who owns Marco Polo Ristorante in Carroll Gardens, said he wants to stay “in Brooklyn” — but wants to locate the new G&T in an area with easier access to transportation.

No matter the circumstances, community leaders are confidant Chirico’s venture will be successful.

“It’s a great name, and the key is having great food,” said Metrotech Business Improvement District Executive Director Mike Weiss. “Joe has been in the restaurant business for a very long time, and I think he can do a really good job, and do justice to the name.”

Since Chirico sold the building that housed the original G&T, it has been a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant and, until recently, was slated to be the Brooklyn outpost of the famed Harlem soul food restaurant, Amy Ruth’s. But last week, marshals seized the property from the restaurant’s parent company, Morning Star Restaurant Group, and returned it to the landlord.

During its heyday, Gage and Tollner was known for its classic American seafood and steak dishes, but in the 1980s, a former owner, Peter Aschkenasy, hired a famed Southern cookbook author Edna Lewis to revamp the menu and include Southern-style dishes like she-crab soup and pan-roasted clam bellies.

Plans for the new Gage and Tollner were first reported by the New York Post on Monday.

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Reader Feedback

roberta z from brooklyn heights says:
i would love to see g & t reopen in the downtown brooklyn area again. we have such fond memories of our visits there. our children loved to put money in the tip jar for the piano player. the food was always fresh and delicious. cant wait for your reopening. good luck
Sept. 4, 2008, 10:38 am
Bailey Barash from Atlanta says:
Hello -
I am a filmmaker in Atlanta. I read your blog with the mention of Edna Lewis and her recipes.

I just wanted to let you know I produced a 21 minute documentary about Miss Edna Lewis and its viewable in its entirety on Internet at a Gourmet Magazine website:

http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/01/Edna

and at a Georgia Public Broadcasting website:

http://www.cforty7.com/film/theater?film_test=16

My documentary is called Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie.

My website,
http://bbarash.com/bb_friedchicken.htm

has more information about the film and the story of Miss Lewis.

Sincerely,
Bailey Barash
Oct. 26, 2008, 5:23 pm
JYV from out of town says:
the pan-fried clam bellies were on the OLD menu - the one with things like Duxbury stew on it.

so sad - still.
July 28, 2009, 1:29 pm
John from Midwest says:
G&T was, of course, a steadfast institution but time took its toll. The neighborhood was increasingly getting too funky and beyond worn down, the building from the outside was creepy. The entire enterprise needed a fresh start, a new location, one fitting for decades to come.

I wholly wish Mr. Chirico and his all the best. I trust he knows what has to be done and will do it right.
Dec. 13, 2010, 11:51 am
Charlie Anteby from New Jersey Shore says:
I have very fond memories of this establishment. It was an oasis in an area that had become it's complete opposite. The food was consistent and unique over a period of many decades, and it was always a pleasant and civilized experience. I very much appreciated the familiar faces of the staff and the sense of serenity and escape that one could enjoy, especially during the early afternoon, - right after the heavy lunch crowd would wind down. Gage & Tollner often had VIP's, especially many of the well-recognized politicians in those years, including the very beloved and iconic former Mayor John V. Lindsay... always a class act. Thanks for all the fine memories and I wish the owners and staff well.
Sept. 30, 2011, 12:19 pm

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