Monday, May 16, 2011

NYC Vintage Image: Toffenetti Restaurant, 'Famous For Ham & Sweets'

Toffenetti’s, the "Cathedral of All Restaurants," at the corner of Broadway and 43rd, "where glamour sparkles forever," opened in 1940, serving an astounding 8,500 meals in its first day. Established by Austrian immigrant Dario Louis Toffenetti, the restaurant became a staple in Times Square for nearly 30 years.

Born in 1889, Toffenetti came to the U.S. in 1910, selling baked potatoes at a Wisconsin mining camp, before becoming a bus boy at Chicago’s Sherman House. In 1914, he opened his first restaurant there, followed by a second in 1921 and six by 1937.

As advertising, marketing and public relations advanced, the entrepreneur offered elaborate descriptors for his menu items. Ham was “Roast Sugar Cured Ham” with accompanying copy, a la “These hams are cut from healthy young hogs grown in the sunshine on beautifully rolling Wisconsin farms, where corn, barley, milk and acorns are unstintingly fed to them, producing that silken meat so rich in wonderful flavor.”

His potatoes were “bulging beauties, grown in the ashes of extinct volcanoes, scrubbed and washed, then baked in a whirlwind of tempestuous fire until the shell crackles with brittleness.”

Following the New York World's Fair in 1939-1940, he outbid Louis B. Mayer for a premiere spot in Times Square, and designed a a two-story, glass-fronted modern building, with an escalator and open  stainless steel kitchen. There, Toffenetti became famous for his Old Fashioned Louisiana Strawberry Shortcake, "topped with pure, velvety whipped cream like puffs of snow."

To build trust, he featured himself in his ads. When Prohibition ended, he announced he would serve beer, but not "in any fashion that might offend our most fastidious women patrons." Toffenetti died in 1962 and his sons, lacking the charm and drive of their papa, closed the iconic locale in 1968.
Toffenetti’s in New York, The Heart of the Great White Way. The Finest of Food and Liquor at Popular Prices.