Category Archives: Florence Eiseman

Isle of Capri

Isle of Capri, 3rd Ave. and 61st Street

In addition to the high style and classic French presentation of restaurants like La Grenouille, La Caravelle and Lutece, 1960s New York offered another kind of “fine” dining experience — the clubby neighborhood classic, often a bistro with sidewalk seating.  After my mother divorced my step-father and sold the apartment in the Dakota we moved to Park Avenue on the Upper East Side which was home to many of this other type of restaurant, probably because there were fewer people who cooked in this more rarified neighborhood.  One of our regular haunts was the Isle of Capri.  It was a “fancy” restaurant but run by a family, the Lamanna’s, who made everyone feel as if they were eating at a rich Italian relative’s house.  In 1967 Craig Claiborne validated the restaurant’s local reputation by naming it “the best small Italian restaurant in New York” and giving it three stars in the New York Times.  It was the kind of place where everyone seemed like a regular and so, for a while, were we.  My and Robbie’s La Grenouille training and matching Florence Eiseman dresses made us pretty additions to the crowd and the simple plates of pasta–fettuccine alfredo was our favorite–and veal piccata we were given made us feel happy and at home.  

Robbie and me in our playclothes from Dayton’s…

Every summer our dad would meet our plane at the Minneapolis Airport.  He’d take one look at our Florence Eiseman dresses and polished Mary Janes and take us straight to Dayton’s Department store (where Mary Tyler Moore tosses her hat in the air) to buy Garanimals, Keds and dungarees that we could get dirty and muddy and wet and be kids in.