Meet 73rd Street
Where the West Side of 72nd felt like a village unto itself, with so many remarkable places to write about on the two-way street, both East and West 73rd felt more residential and quiet. Although there were far fewer shops and restaurants in comparison, those businesses that I encountered – and their owners – were show stoppers.
The East Side has one endearing block where I had an apartment for a short time several years ago. Today, in 2015, it was chock full of memories and new surprises. Ronald McDonald House cannot help but touch the heart of each of us as it affords “a temporary home away from home for pediatric cancer patients and their families.” I was pleased to meet the three men who had recently opened Amoun, a Mediterranean restaurant and lounge, as well as Kelly, at The Sweet Shop, also known as “the Candyman.” He welcomed me with open arms and showed me his vast collection of high quality marshmallows, chocolates, ice cream, and classic candy favorites. He then personally walked me a few doors down to introduce me to the Cigar Inn. Along with relaxing and having a smoke with friends, visitors can purchase everything from shaving kits to fountain pens.
Session 73, a neighborhood watering hole, has been providing a casual place to dance and listen to local bands since 2000. EJ’s Luncheonette has been my own children’s go-to diner for breakfast for many years. BKB covers the other side of the dining spectrum, with their meticulously prepared dishes based on a “sea-to-table” mindset. Attached to BKB is the Bohemian National Hall, which houses the Czech Center, the Consulate General, and the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association. It was a definite highlight, as the Manhattan Sideways team was overjoyed to explore the magnificent five floors and to learn the history of this building that includes a movie theater, ballroom, library, gallery, and roof garden.
I am always intrigued by the stories behind family businesses and I found two distinctive ones on 73rd. The Center of Woodwork is family-run in the traditional sense: Victor Calixto works alongside his siblings and uses his father’s woodworking techniques in order to complete jobs throughout the city. A very different business, L’Antiquaire and the Connoisseur, similarly demonstrates strong family bonds. Not only did Helen Fioratti take over her mother’s gallery, she also displays her own daughter’s contemporary art together with her breathtaking antiques. Helen has an extraordinary assemblage of eighteenth century chandeliers, inlaid wood game tables, and countless works on paper.
After marveling at the grand Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and stopping in for a chat with owner Paolo della Puppa at Via Quadronno, an Italian mainstay on the Upper East Side, I crossed through Central Park to the West Side. It was the Dakota, once again, that greeted me first. While covered in scaffolding on 72nd, it was still partially visible from the other side. I could see the interior rooms, constructed like mini Bridges of Sighs. Ambling across, I stood in awe of several more breathtaking residences.
Crossing Columbus Avenue, I stopped into Alice’s Tea Cup, a place that my daughter and I have considered to be very special since the first time I took her to this enchanting spot for a pot of afternoon tea and scones. Today, I look forward to treating my granddaughter to the same experience whenever she visits.
Having always admired the magnificent edifice of Apple Bank, I did not actually venture inside this grand, old world bank, which has stood between Broadway and Amsterdam since 1928, until I was walking 73rd for Manhattan Sideways. Another breathtaking building, the Ansonia, captured the heart of Tom, our photographer. It was built at the turn of the 20th century with the goal of being the most spectacular residential hotel in New York. In 1992, the structure was converted into condominium apartments.
Continuing on, I was entertained watching an adult class at Modern Martial Arts, founded by Mario Guerrero. He is well-known for creating programs for at-risk kids in order to teach them discipline through mixed martial arts. The rest of my walk to the Hudson River was relaxing and uneventful, as it was filled with quiet residential brownstones. I appreciated the break, as it allowed me to gaze up at the architecture and imagine the layers of history present in each one.