Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Asti’s

A reader left a comment on a post about West Fourth Street and Naked City recalling Asti’s Restaurant. Like Bianchi & Margherita, a restaurant mentioned in that post, Asti’s offered opera-centric dining. From Harold H. Hart’s Hart’s Guide to New York City (New York: Hart Publishing, 1964):

ASTI’S
CAPACITY 150
13 E. 12th St.
(bet. Fifth Ave. and University Pl.)

AL 5-9095

5 PM–2:30 AM, TUES. THRU SUN. CLOSED JULY, AUG.

MINIMUM: $3, FRI. AND SAT.
NO CHARGE AT BAR.

If you like opera, you’ll like Asti’s. The hired hands provide the diversion. Whenever the bouncer, barmaid, bus boy, or barkeep feels an aria coming on, the warbler just passes a signal to the pianist and lets go.

And what you’ll hear is surprisingly good, for most of the staff has had professional operatic experience. The singing of the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore is a sure-fire tour de force . Accompanying the chorus, there is a tintinnabulation of clinks coming from the glasses on the bar as they are struck rhythmically by the attendants.

Everything here has an Italian accent — the strains from Verdi and Puccini, the cuisine, and the gusto which which with which the staff discharges its chores. The food is adequate. Suffice it to say that it’s worthwhile to come here for the singing which is lusty, continuous, and thoroughly exhilarating. A table d’hote dinner, averaging $6, is served till 10, after which an à la carte supper menu takes over.
Asti’s, or Asti, began as a speakeasy in 1924 or ’25 and closed on December 31, 1999. By the end of its life, the restaurant had 1,200 photographs of opera singers on its walls. The building now houses Strip House, a steak place.

As much as I love the idea of an Asti’s or a Bianchi & Margherita, the relentlessness of it all would leave me exhausted. (I am a highly sensitive person.) This short documentary gives some idea of what an evening at Asti’s might have involved.

Thanks, Jeff, for pointing me to Asti’s.

Related reading
An Asti’s menu (eBay)

[I would have scanned the entry from Hart’s Guide, but I didn’t want to risk damaging the book’s spine.]

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