"Everything runs in cycles and, who knows, 39th Street's cycle might be over," says gravel-voiced Tom Macaluso, who closed his namesake bistro at 1493 West 39th Street in February. "A lot of new restaurants are opening all over the city, and then there's the Power & Light District creating a brand-new destination for diners."
The Power & Light District is set to open this fall. Meanwhile, Macaluso blames the high expenses and soft economy of 2006 for his decision to throw in the towel after 14 years in his intimate dining room. Although Macaluso's had loyal fans and a stable staff Scott Warren was chef for the entire run business was hit-or-miss for too many months last year.
And it wasn't because of Tom's legendary temper. Even his critics noted that he'd mellowed over the past few years. But Macaluso confessed to me that one cheap couple nearly put him over the edge right before the restaurant closed.
"It was one of those thirtysomething, self-important couples who came in and had a very good time but left the server $3 on a $67 bill. After they walked out, I stepped outside and motioned for the wife to roll down her window. I asked them what had happened during their meal that would make them leave the server a 5 percent tip."
The couple had a quick answer: "But that's what we always leave as a tip," the wife said as her spouse nodded in agreement. Wrong answer. Macaluso says he sputtered out a string of expletives ending with, "Don't ever come to this restaurant again."
As a former waiter (who twice threw a tip tray at stingy customers and would do it again), I applaud Macaluso for defending his staff, nasty words and all.
"I don't know what I'll do next," he says. "I'm looking for a job. I'd like to be a bartender, I think. I did that for many years, and I like being situated in one place."
Macaluso is such a great raconteur, he'd do well behind a bar.
Just don't leave him a bad tip.