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Fat Guy

The living museum of the restaurant matchbook

5 posts in this topic

My friend and colleague Bob Lape is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and food writer who has visited more than -- get this -- 9,000 restaurants. He writes the weekly restaurant reviews for Crain’s New York Business, and over the past several decades has covered food for countless journals and broadcast media outlets, including the Today Show. He has been referred to on occasion as "The Restaurant Encyclopedia."

I’ve known Bob Lape for about ten years, and I thought I knew a lot about Bob. But a few weeks ago I learned something new about Bob. He sent me an email and just casually mentioned, like it was no big deal, that . . . well, you know how he has been to 9,000 restaurants over a period of decades stretching back to around the time I was born? It turns out he has been collecting matchbooks from those restaurants. So in addition to being "The Restaurant Encyclopedia," Bob is also the Living Museum of the Restaurant Matchbook.

This incredible collection is a walk down memory lane of restaurants great and small, and recently I spent some time with Bob Lape walking down that lane. In a recording session at Porter House New York, Bob reminisced about several of the matchbooks in his collection. Michael Lomonaco, the chef at Porter House, also joined us for a bit -- it turns out he too is an aficionado of the restaurant matchbook.

But that's not all. After we recorded the audio, we took the matchbooks we discussed back to eGullet Society World Headquarters across town. We scanned them on the eGullet Society high-resolution flatbed scanner. And eG Features director Dave "the Cook" Scantland created an incredibly nifty flash thingy, which you'll see below. It has all the matchbook images (all the ones we discussed, that is -- there are hundreds more in the collection), and a place at the bottom right to click to hear the audio. Hope you enjoy.

<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase="http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=8,0,0,0" width="800" height="550" id="restaurant_matchbook" align="middle">

<param name="allowScriptAccess">

<param name="movie" value="restaurant_matchbook.swf" /><param name="quality" value="high" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#999999" /><embed src="http://www.egullet.org/flash/restaurant_matchbook.swf" quality="high" bgcolor="#999999" width="800" height="550" name="restaurant_matchbook" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" />

</object>


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Wonderful, wonderful work, Steven. The interview provided more than a glimpse into the history of restaurants in NY (and beyond) over the last 30-40 years or so and brought back many memories. A few mentions in particular that stuck out for me was Michael Lomanaco's mention of Monte's Venetian Room in Brooklyn, a restaurant that remains one of my lifetime favorites for its linguine with white clam sauce (my benchmark for the dish). Funny thing is that he was working there as a cook at the time I recall as its heyday. The other mention that brought back many fond memories was lape's mention of Sidewalkers, the Maryland crabhouse on the UWS. That was one of my wife and my favorite restaurants in the mid-80's.

We used to collect matchbooks from restaurants and had a large collection in a big jar, which has disappeared over the years. Now I tend to collect menus and business cards. the menus are more meaningful, while the cards are easier to keep.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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My friend and colleague Bob Lape is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and food writer who has visited more than -- get this -- 9,000 restaurants. <snip>  turns out he has been collecting matchbooks from those restaurants. So in addition to being "The Restaurant Encyclopedia," Bob is also the Living Museum of the Restaurant Matchbook.

Is there any chance he'd like more matchbooks? My father has collected matchbooks from restaurants, hotels and cruise ships for the past several decades. There's probably only 100 or so, mostly from the 70s and 80s, and mostly from San Francisco. But looking through quickly, there are matches from Doros and Vertigo in SF, as well as Jasper's and Biba in Boston. And a few oddballs from Antwerp and Ghent.

Do you suppose there's any interest in this?

Susan

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The New York Times has a dining-section feature today about restaurant matchbooks. The hook is that, while restaurants now pretty much universally ban smoking, matchbooks are still popular.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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