The Urban Restaurant

World's first restaurant

"The very first restaurant in the world was opened in Paris in 1765. A tavern keeper, Monsieur Boulanger, served a single dish -- sheep's feet simmered in a white sauce. Boulanger's business was different from other food businesses, like cafes and inns, because Boulanger's business was centered on food, not alcohol (like taverns) or coffee and tea (like cafes). Customers came to Boulanger's establishment primarily to eat, and this was a novelty in the late 18th Century, where the population ate their meals at home or, if they were away from home overnight on business, at an inn. Boulanger claimed that his dish restored one's health, i.e., that it was a restorative . In French, the word restorative is restaurant . A local food guild (a union monopoly) sued Boulanger in court for infringing on its monopoly on the sale of cooked foods, but Boulanger won and was allowed to continue. This victory led to the rapid spread of these new restaurants across France.

U.S. first restaurant

The first restaurant in the United States was Delmonico's Restaurant, which was opened in 1827 by brothers Giovanni and Pietro Delmonico. More precisely, the brothers opened an ordinary cafe in 1827 and then, in 1830, opened the "restaurant francais" in the building next to their cafe. Before 1824, Swiss-born Giovanni Del-Monico (as the family name was then spelled) had been a successful sea captain. Giovanni and his family were from a small village, Mairengo, which was Switzerland's southernmost area, adjacent to Italy. In 1824, he retired from a career at sea and opened a wine shop near the Battery in New York. On December 13, 1827, the brothers opened a small cafe and pastry shop at 23 William Street. Just as they adapted to American customs by using the English spelling of their first names, they changed the spelling of their last name from Del-Monico to Delmonico. John managed the business and worked in the front, with the guests, while Peter worked in the back as the cook. The cafe and pastry shop started with six, small pine tables, with chairs to match. Half a dozen pine tables, with chairs to match, comprised the furniture of the cafe. Along one side of the room was a counter spread with white napkins, upon which the day's stock of cakes and pastries was arranged neatly. John, in white apron and cap, was the counterman. Aside from the pastries that Peter confected, the shop dispensed coffee, chocolate, bonbons, orgeats, bavaroises, wines, liquors, and fancy ices. . . . The first customers the little cafe attracted were European residents in the city. There was a considerable colony of these, mostly agents of export houses. Marooned in a strange country, among people with barbarous eating habits, the exiles were quick to discover the William Street oasis.

No. 2 South William Street

In August, 1836, the brothers purchased a plot of ground at the corner of Beaver, William and South William (formerly Mill) Street. There they began construction of a building designed specifically for a restaurant. The building was 3 1/2 stories high, and the entrance featured marble pillars imported from Pompeii. The first and second floors featured large "saloons" (dining rooms), decorated with inlaid floors and the most expensive decor. The third floor held several private dining rooms, as well as the kitchen. The cellar included wine vaults stocked with 16,000 bottles of French wine. For the first time, the brothers gave it the name "Delmonico's Restaurant". But the public soon called it The Citadel." (1)


  1. text quoted from California BBQ
  2. Delmonico's Restaurant
  3. Department Store history
  4. Delmonico

revised 2/12/04 by Steven Schoenherr