EXCLUSIVE: Le Cirque, NYC’s Fine Dining Landmark

Sirio Maccioni is a one in a million restauranteur. He is relentless for success, for proving people wrong.

LE CIRQUE
PHOTO LE CIRQUE

“If there’s one thing about my father, he is tenacious.” Marco Maccioni, Sirio’s second son, who also plays an integral part within the family restaurant franchise, passionately shares, “He was a skinny Italian kid, from the wrong side of the tracks. Without a family, no one gave him a chance. He always said, ‘I’ll show you.’” Sirio did just that. He took a chance on himself, worked his way through the transatlantic cruise liner and immigrated to America. He headed toward a vision and a dream. In time, he made a prestigious brand on hospitality and excellence out of himself, in one of the greatest and toughest cities in the world.

LE CIRQUE
PHOTO LE CIRQUE

When Marco mentions his father, light-hearted jokes veil a profound sense of cherished admiration – a rare find in today’s family dynamics. “The question of crossing generations is one that my father started answering five decades ago, that’s what I’m most proud of for him.” He continues, “Imagine, five decades for a single person to carry on, that’s a lifetime. To dedicate himself 100% to always provide the best, get the most out of what he’s offering. It’s not easy.” In addition to Sirio’s tenacious intensity, all three sons (Mario, Marco and Mauro) perceive him as a humbled man, who remains happy simply at the sight of a packed restaurant. Like a true restauranteur, he doesn’t need much else.

Sirio comes from a generation with a hefty sense of sacrifice, integrity and incomparable work ethics. He was orphaned at a young age and grew up on a farm in Tuscany during WWII, then worked as a busboy at Maxim’s Paris, and extraordinary experiences in numerous fine dining restaurants throughout Europe. After arriving in New York City, he eventually worked at the historic Delmonico’s restaurant, then moved to a maitre d’hotel position at the famous Colony Club, where he was known as “the skinny, handsome Italian who didn’t speak English but knew everyone” by New York’s upper society. When Colony closed, he knew he wanted to capture the festive excitement that a circus provides while staying true to his philosophy of a restaurant: eat, drink and be merry. He always had an instinct to what people want: why would a customer want to enter a restaurant? To make it full. In 1974, he opened a local attraction and made it exceptional by giving everything that customers desired. Everyone who was anyone, wanted to take a peek inside Le Cirque.

LE CIRQUE
PHOTO LE CIRQUE

“Many of his clients from Colony followed him,” Marco recalls, “at the time, the elite associated French cuisine to prestige. To satisfy them, Le Cirque was created as a French restaurant, not Italian.” Over the years, Sirio would add his own accent and he worked hard by moving like no one else would, but did it in a nice suit. To this day, not one job is too demeaning for him. He is never the guy who stands at the door and refuses to get his hands dirty. His goal was not limited to creating the best French restaurant in New York, he wanted to create the best restaurant in New York.

Le Cirque first opened at Mayfair Hotel in the 70s. Due to eminent popularity, it moved to Palace Hotel in 1997. In 2006, it relocated once again to the highly esteemed Bloomberg Building. Amid multiple location changes and evolvement of time, Le Cirque has welcomed the widest possible range of prominent guests, including: The Pope, most U.S. Presidents since 1970s, Hollywood stars, respected artists, international business entrepreneurs. Just as Sirio’s dream has unraveled into luscious reality, Le Cirque has become the New York restaurant, where Nixon and Kissinger reconciled or Donald Trump habitually arriving to devour his favorite flounder dish. “People still come to the restaurant every single day, because my dad listens to the people.” Marco explains, “besides leaving his ego at the door, his secret in hospitality is: being able to deliver on people’s desires, understanding them and never judge them.”

LE CIRQUE
PHOTO LE CIRQUE

With an upscale French menu, from Foie Gras de Carnard Confit, Lobster Risotto, Paupiette of Black Bass, Dover Sole, to the infamous Chocolate Souffle; Le Cirque’s kitchen is renowned for launching momentous careers of remarkable chefs who have later successfully opened their own restaurant chains. Daniel Boulud, Jacques Torres, David Bouley have all agreed: Le Cirque has permitted them to see what true French cuisine is. Presently, Chef Olivier Reginensi directs an enormous staff behind the curtains of an animated circus that serves hundreds of people on a daily basis. According to Marco, Chef Reginensi brings a solidity and an understanding of what French cuisine is, period.

In this family business, the matriarch who firmly stands her resilient ground is Egidiana – the true pallet within the Maccioni clan. In fact, it is Egidiana who hires each chef in every family branded restaurant. After the legendary success of Le Cirque, Sirio has diversified offerings for his fans by adding Circo (established in 1996 in NYC, 1998 in Las Vegas,) as well as Sirio (opened recently in Las Vegas and soon in NYC,) “Le Cirque is our pride and joy, our crown and jewel. Circo is sophisticated family dining, my mom’s recipes for business lunches with a family spin. Sirio is our most recent approach to expand the brand with a sleeker and a more contemporary image.” Long ago, every member within the family has decided to enter the restaurant business. Thus, the brand as a whole, provides room for each person to excel in ways they best know how.

LE CIRQUE
PHOTO LE CIRQUE

Marco admits, if he weren’t a restauranteur, he would be an architect. Deep down inside, however, he always knew he would somehow be in the business of a family that discusses nothing outside of food and restaurants. Maybe an occasional conversation about soccer sporadically sneaks in. “We’re Sirio’s sons. We can either be better than him, or not as good as him. If we’re just as good as him, we’re not any better.” Marco states, “So we have to outshine him just a little bit. What I can do is to maintain what he has built, if I can add something to it for improvement, I’ll try to achieve that as well. But you know what? The positive of a double-edged sword far outweighs the negative. It’s like trying to recover deleted photos from iPhone.”

Prestige, luxury, quality and excellence ultimately define Le Cirque. Above all, tradition and quality strinkingly gleam through. The success of what Mario, Marco and Mauro has, is what Sirio founded decades ago – a historic entity none can ever deny. With every ounce of tradition, in particular, the sons passionately carry on.

Make your reservations at Le Cirque.

LE CIRQUE
PHOTO LE CIRQUE

Wendy Hung

CEO, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and Russia because they were all so different! St. Bart's was pretty amazing too (wink)!

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