Closing Time for a Budget Diner on a Luxury Block

New York Times—August 14, 2007

Along a stretch of Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Chanel and Jimmy Choo share pride of address with a Greek diner called Gardenia, where an attention-seeking fan once lifted a French fry off Joe DiMaggio’s plate.

Gardenia, established in 1977 and one of the oldest restaurants on the Upper East Side, will yield to that supreme leveler, the New York real estate market.

Gardenia has had its fair share of famous patrons.

But arguably the most famous customer, at least among the regulars, was Joe DiMaggio, the New York Yankees legend who died in 1999.

His friend, Dr. Rock Positano, said: “To Italians, the table is a very sacred place, a place where you break bread and feel comfortable. In that respect, Gardenia became the dinner table for Joe and me.”

While waiters and other staff did their best to keep fans from bothering DiMaggio, occasionally one would get too close. A woman once tried to get DiMaggio’s attention by snatching a French fry, Dr. Positano said. She succeeded.

“Doc, can you imagine this dame?” the normally unflappable DiMaggio said. “She just stole one of my French fries!”

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