Ed Driscoll

How Two Men Destroyed one of NYC’s Most Storied Restaurants

Staring into the twilight of the Four Seasons restaurant, “the once-great eatery that still personifies the power and glory of New York City as no other,” Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post asks, how could two of the giant egos behind the scenes there accidentally collude to bring her down? “Or, put another way, which egomaniac’s the bigger pig — Julian Niccolini or Aby Rosen?”

The Four Seasons’ lease at Rosen’s Seagram Building is up in July 2016. Rosen says he won’t renew it but wants to bring in a different restaurant.

Meanwhile, Niccolini and co-owner Alex von Bidder are searching for a new location while Rosen hopes to mess with Philip Johnson’s classic design.

My loyalty was mostly on the owners’ side — until Niccolini’s arrest this week for alleged sexual groping at the bar. Suddenly, the plight of the fabled dining temple for the high-and-mighty became a police-blotter story.

What a pitiable, infuriating, possibly final act for an institution that has been synonymous with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s landmark Seagram Building — and all that’s to cherish about New York — since 1959.

There’s an interesting symmetry between the restaurant’s birth in the late ’50s and its possible demise, considering that it was birthed by two of the hugest egos in modern architecture: German-born Mies van der Rohe, a truly talented architect who allowed a near Scientology-level cult of personality to arise around him at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the 1940s and ’50s, whose campus he designed and whose students he rigorously taught his design systems. And wealthy America-born modernist gadfly Philip Johnson, who as a young man created the architectural department at New York’s Museum’s of Modern Art, and immediately afterwards, put Mies on the map in America in the 1930s. During that period, both socialists collaborated with Germany’s National Socialists — Mies, arguably reluctantly until he fled Germany in 1937; Philip as a full-fledged worshiper.

And as Tom Wolfe noted in From Bauhaus to Our House, the two men built the ultimate expression of Weimar-era German Socialist Worker Housing rising up on Park Ave. housing one the most fabled watering holes of New York’s capitalists and corporatists. Coming less than a month after the final episodes of Med Men aired, where the Four Seasons was namedropped in several episodes from the first season through its major role (offscreen) in the show’s penultimate episode, Niccolini’s alleged crime, if true, sounds like something that would be entirely appropriate in one of its stories. But that era has passed — and sadly, perhaps the Four Seasons’ time has as well.