It’s like history is repeating itself all over again.
The owner of the famous Downtown restaurant Gage and Tollner plans to reopen the Victorian hotspot within the next two years — and he’s bringing an 1890s atmosphere with him.
Joseph Chirico, who still owns the steakhouse’s legendary name after closing it in 2004, told The Brooklyn Paper this week that he wants to reopen elsewhere in Brooklyn with his son, Marco — who will graduate from the culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in 2010 — as head chef.
“It will be exactly the same — the same menu, and we still have all of the furniture,” Chirico said of the tables and chairs he took with him when he closed up shop. “We’re going to redo the same interior, the same decoration.”
Chirico closed the original Gage and Tollner — which moved to Fulton Street between Pearl and Jay streets in 1892 — because he couldn’t make ends meet. He then sold the building to its current owner for a reported $2.5 million. But he long dreamt of reopening a similar restaurant, and now sees the perfect opportunity with his son.
“He is young — that’s what it needs,” Chirico said. “Young blood, new ideas, and it’s an adventure.”
Fully replicating the original will be a challenge. The Landmarks Preservation Council designated the restaurant’s interior grand floor dining room as a landmark in 1975, which included fixed pieces like the arched mirrors, deep red cherry wood paneling, and the 36 famous gas lamps. The building’s exterior was landmarked in 1974.
The tables and aren’t part of the landmarked status because they aren’t permanent fixtures, explained Landmarks spokeswoman Elisabeth De Bourbon.
That furniture is in a storage facility, but Chirico said he would love to acquire the original brass lights.
“If I can get [them] I would. If not, I will get replicas,” he vowed.
When Chirico purchased the restaurant in 1995, he spent a year painstakingly renovating the 130-year-old restaurant to its original splendor. Chirico, who owns Marco Polo Ristorante in Carroll Gardens, said he wants to stay “in Brooklyn” — but wants to locate the new G&T in an area with easier access to transportation.
No matter the circumstances, community leaders are confidant Chirico’s venture will be successful.
“It’s a great name, and the key is having great food,” said Metrotech Business Improvement District Executive Director Mike Weiss. “Joe has been in the restaurant business for a very long time, and I think he can do a really good job, and do justice to the name.”
Since Chirico sold the building that housed the original G&T, it has been a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant and, until recently, was slated to be the Brooklyn outpost of the famed Harlem soul food restaurant, Amy Ruth’s. But last week, marshals seized the property from the restaurant’s parent company, Morning Star Restaurant Group, and returned it to the landlord.
During its heyday, Gage and Tollner was known for its classic American seafood and steak dishes, but in the 1980s, a former owner, Peter Aschkenasy, hired a famed Southern cookbook author Edna Lewis to revamp the menu and include Southern-style dishes like she-crab soup and pan-roasted clam bellies.
Plans for the new Gage and Tollner were first reported by the New York Post on Monday.