I don't know what dinner at Sette Mezzo costs because my friend George obviously gets a bill sent home monthly. I never see cash nor do they take credit cards and mostly they recite the menu fortunately leaving off the price du jour for the turbot and truffles (this isn't Red Lobster).
But with your nose pressed against the window from outside, one can see Saul Steinberg and his sons at one table and Ralph and Ricky Lauren at another and the best and worst thing is you can hear everyone's conversation. In fact, last night George and I moved tables because we were practically sitting in Saul's lap and listening wasn't even an option it was so loud.
The owner now kisses me on each cheek because I'm usually with someone important and this place is all about who's in the room. Unlike Swifty"s — its American counterpart up the block — Sette Mezzo has been the loud money night time neighborhood restaurant of choice, kind of for the crowd that lunches at Michael's and enjoys visibility and some abuse from the owners.
Even I was impressed one night this summer when Valentino came in with his bodyguards and Ralph Lauren went over to hug him. I remember thinking it was the ultimate New York moment and any tourist — who actually couldn't get into Sette Mezzo in the first place — would never forget it. New Yorkers are a bit more used to this because on any given day, there's a celebrity walking the streets and barely a head turns. We tend to give them their space and privacy or maybe they don't mean much anymore. (I did stand in line twice to see the Pope and waved madly as the Popemobile went along and I still get a kick out of seeing ousted Royalty like the Farah Diba.)
Because the tables at Sette Mezzo are squished together, it's hard to avoid being drawn into other people's conversations. The couple at the next table related a story about a woman who left the restaurant one night waving to everyone as she passed by but my fellow diner was clueless until someone mentioned it was a famous cosmetic dermatologist who took care of all the wrinkles and splotches in the room. Even she was a celebrity!
My feeling about New York dining is it's about the buzz and if a restaurant doesn't have it, I'd rather eat at home watching CNN. One would never know from this restaurant that we've fallen on hard times or is it possible they're eating out of nervousness? The Last Supper redux?