Era Ends With Closing of Elaine's, Owned by "First Woman Mafia Don"

"I would have to categorize her, in a nonviolent way, as the first woman Mafia don,"


The food was considered awful, the decor described as "dingy" but "underworld" luminaries ate there, a Billy Joel song immortalized the eatery, and bestselling authors included the place in countless novels.

The former Manhattan institution was owned by Elaine Kaufman, who reputedly thought nothing of punching customers or throwing out tourists. Yet Elaine’s restaurant in New York’s upper East Side was always jam packed.

Celebrities, writers, high-powered executives and Mafiosi were among her regulars.



The Gothamist writes that Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes called her "The First Woman Mafia Don."

"I would have to categorize her, in a nonviolent way, as the first woman Mafia don," Kroft said. "She held a great deal of social cachet in New York and was the arbiter of the pecking order of the literary and media world."

Elaine, the proprietress, died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and pulmonary hypertension on Dec. 3, 2010, aged 81. Her assistant, who inherited it, simply did not have the business acumen or luck to keep the place afloat for even another six months.

I have never been inside Elaine's, although I feel I have been there dozens of times. Stuart Woods, in his polished, fast-paced Stone Barrington thrillers which I devour almost as fast as he writes them, began nearly every book with the line: "Elaine's, late." Fresh paragraph... Countless scenes from the Barrington books took place in the restaurant, where Stone and his former partner, now NYPD big-shot Dino Bacchetti, would sip scotch (Stone preferred Knob Creek) and through a chance encounter right there in the restaurant get propelled into another adventure.

Woods issued a statement upon Elaine's death: "No writer ever went hungry while Elaine was in business. If she knew someone was having a rough time, she would send a check to the table that just said 'Tip the waiter.'" Woods, like Stone, ate their a lot, and I suppose filled a lot of pages of his novels seated at one of the better tables in the restaurant.

"Celebrities, Hollywood scriptwriters, best-selling novelists and Nobel Peace Prize winners mingled with politicians, cops, firemen and the odd priest," the UK Mirror noted. "Mafia kingpins lined up to greet Sopranos stars such as James Gandolfini."

Established in 1963, Elaine's is famed both for the writers and other New Yorkers such as Mario Puzo and Sidney Zion, who have been regulars over the years, as well as for its dearly departed chain-smoking namesake and proprietress Elaine Kaufman, who ran the restaurant for over four decades.

The restaurant was noted for its Oscar night, where celebrities and visiting Hollywood stars congregate to watch the Academy Awards ceremony.

The quirky owner, Elaine Kaufman, was known for not mincing her words, for booting less-favored customers to seat new arrivals, and for forbidding hamburgers in her establishment. She was once arrested after a physical altercation with a visiting Texan.

Billy Joel immortalized the establishment in his song "Big Shot" supposedly about a date gone wrong which included a stop at the eatery with the lyrics, "they were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine's".

So how about it Cosa Nostra News readers -- share with us your own experiences at Elaine's. Did anyone out there know the first woman Mafia don? Tells us about her. 

And....

Was the food that bad??

Comments

  1. ONE LATE NIGHT IN THE WINTER OF 1986 I THINK THE PLACE WAS ALL BUT EMPTY AND IN COMES TONY SALERNO
    ELAINE IS SITTING ON THE BACK SIDE WALL WITH A PARTY OF TWO BUT QUICKLY JUMPS TO HER FEET WHEN HER EYES FOCUE ON THE LARGE LATE NIGHT CUSTOMERS KNOWN IN THE MEDIA AS FAT TONY SALERNO, TONY ELAINE CALLS OUT WHILE EMBRACING MR. SALERNO. OFF TO THE BACK THRU THE KITCHEN DOORS THEY WERE GONE, LEAVING ONE OF TONY'S MEN TO WAIT AT A TABLE WATCHING THE DOOR WITH HIS BACK TO THE WALL. I FIGURE THIS WAS A GOOD TIME FOR ME TO DEPART, ELAINE AND I ALWAYS SPENT TIME AT THE END OF THE NIGHT WHEN I WAS IN TOWN AFTER MOST HAD GONE, I NEVER ASK HER WHO HER GUEST WAS NAMED TONY, MY FIRST TIME IN ELAINE'S WAS THE NIGHT I DEPOSITED 10 MILLION DOLLARS IN MY BANK ACCOUNT, I FELT LIKE I WAS ON TOP OF THE WORLD, IM NOT ONE THAT CALLS ATTENTION TO ONE SELF, BUT ELAINE KNOW I GUESS MY SWAGGER ANNOUNCED MY DAYS GOOD FORTUNE, I MISS MY FRIEND ELAINE LOVED BY MANY BY KNOWN TO FEW.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous, you're not Stuart Woods by any chance, are you? You sound like you could be either him, or his creation, Stone Barrington...

    ReplyDelete

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