La Caravelle, a French Legend, Is Closing After 43 Years

Swallow your confusion—this article is eight years old. I heard an unfamiliar name in an episode from the last season of Mad Men and decided to figure out what “La Caravel [sic]” is, or, apparently, was. A restaurant. That makes sense.

La Caravelle’s kitchen was an incubator for some of New York’s better-known chefs, most of them not French. Michael Romano worked with Mr. Fessaguet until Danny Meyer tapped him to become the chef at Union Square Cafe. David Ruggerio, who went on to Le Chantilly and who is currently the consultant for Sushi à Go-Go near Lincoln Center, worked at La Caravelle as well, as did Tadashi Ono, the chef of Matsuri in the Maritime Hotel; Cyril Renaud, the chef and owner of Fleur de Sel in the Flatiron district; David Pasternack, the chef at Esca; and Julian Alonzo, the chef at 8 1/2 and a consultant at the new Blvd.

It seems that maybe half of these are still open. More than some of the closings were forced (tax evasion seems prevalent?) but I felt a glimmer, researching this. I don’t care about food, we’ve recently learned, but the idea of a city’s cache of fine dining experiences turning over entirely every five to ten years could turn me around.

So, why? Part of it is the price, maybe. Even if it isn’t my money, I feel off consuming something deemed so extraordinarily precious. But I see myself buying art someday, which is, on the whole, priced with wildly more exorbitance than even the finest cuisine. And the price for something like a day at Disneyland, say, feels perfectly worthwhile.

Another part of the apathy is created by anxiety. Maybe I don’t care about food because I don’t know about food. What is there to know if you’re consuming and not creating, you might ask me, and maybe the answer is “Not so much,” but I don’t know what I don’t know, and I worry that I’m missing something. It works backwards into the other point. I’m missing potential. Or there’s the potential to be missing potential.

That’s why I glimmered. I shy away from the “Oh you must try this” and the “This dish is unmissable.” If every notable restaurant was just a few years old, there’d be almost none of that.

But this fantasy is impossible.