Image: Le Cirque

Regardless on which side of the stove you were on at any given time, Le Cirque was and remains to this day a place to see and be seen. The restaurant, which is still in New York’s top echelon, was staffed over the decades by one future culinary star or another. Chefs included Alain Sailhac, Geoffrey Zakarian, David Bouley, Sottha Kuhn, and Jacques Torres. Its most notable alumnus was Daniel Boulud, who has gone out to carve a restaurant empire of his own on Manhattan Island.

On Monday, the man behind the legend, Sirio Maccioni, died in the Tuscan town where he was born, Montecatini.

In the early 1960s, Maccioni reined as maitre d’ at the Colony, itself a place for New York’s glitterati to strut their stuff. When the Colony closed in 1971, Maccioni partnered with the restaurant’s onetime chef, Jean Vergnes, to open Le Cirque. It became an overnight success.

That was in 1974, and in the 46 years since, the restaurant hasn’t skipped a beat.

An obituary in the New York Times provides a quote from Maccioni’s autobiography that neatly sums up his vision as well as his credo:

Give the people what they want. If they want a whole fish, grilled, then give it to them. Don’t give away the best table, so that it’s there when you need it. Give the early people the center tables, so they think they are important. Never have an empty table in the room. Do the impossible. Never say no.