2010 Best of New York Award
Julian Niccolini ‘74
The Four Season Restaurant
Julian Niccolini, a graduate of City Tech’s hospitality management program, is a restaurateur, actor, beekeeper, journalist and winemaker. A native of Tuscany, he is today best known as the flamboyant co-owner of New York City’s famed Four Seasons Restaurant. Featuring an award-winning menu of Euro-American seasonal specialties created from locally grown ingredients, the restaurant’s name reportedly derives from the canopy of seasonally changing trees that adorn one of its two dining rooms.
Designed 51 years ago by Philip Johnson, a protégé of architect Mies van der Rohe, The Four Seasons is one of the few grand restaurants from the era to survive. The space was originally to become a Cadillac showroom, but van der Rohe persuaded the owners to put in a restaurant that immediately became the place to take a power lunch in a gray Hart Shaffner Marx suit and to be seen doing so. A symbol of New York’s corporate muscle, the restaurant has played host to many of the world’s most colorful people. Mr. Niccolini, together with partner Alex von Bidder, has owned the establishment since 1995.
Mr. Niccolini first entered restaurant studies in Rome and apprenticed in the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco. He worked as an immigrant restaurant toiler in the pricey Palace restaurant after relocating to New York City in 1975 with a handful of words of English in his vocabulary and a couple of bucks in his pocket. Later, he found work at The Four Seasons, where he had applied for a job before but didn’t get it. He recently appeared in the Spike Lee film Inside Man, and pens etiquette columns for Details and Gotham magazines.
Well known as the “Julian of ther Seasons,” the “madcapped Maitre d’” and the “imperious and witty arbiter of the restaurant’s seating chart,” Mr. Niccolini (together with his partner) has been called the creator of “the modern restaurant.” Mr. Niccolini’s wine list features some of the rarest and most sought after wines in the world, and he spends as much time as possible in the woods picking his own mushrooms. He also bottles his own honey, and, an avid beekeeper, was roasted by broadcasting, publishing and business giant Martha Stewart at a May 2009 fundraiser for Citymeals-on-Wheels that marked the restaurant’s 50th anniversary as having “the only hive I’ve ever seen that has a seating chart.”