Windows on the World was tops in New York

September 19, 2001|By Heather McPherson | Heather McPherson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On Sept. 11, windowsonthe world.com was still offering a breathtaking southern view from the 107th floor of One World Trade Center. The photo was locked in cyberspace, but one of the nation's premiere restaurants was gone.

"It was about to celebrate its 25th anniversary," said Melanie Young, awards director for the James Beard Foundation, located in the Greenwich Village home of the late father of American gastronomy.

Although many of Windows on the World's top management survived, the food community worried about the workers who would have been there at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

"A breakfast banquet was about to be served, so there were 100 to 150 banquet workers on duty at the time, as well as the pastry chefs, cooks and dishwashers," Young said.

The restaurant was also home to the immensely popular Windows on the World Wine School directed by Kevin Zraly. More than 10,000 wine enthusiasts have completed the course. The eight-week, two-hour sessions cost $795 per person.

In 2001, Windows was presented an award of excellence by Wine Spectator magazine, one of hundreds of honors for its 36-page wine list that included more than 1,200 selections. It was the largest wine list in New York City.

When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began to plan the World Trade Center, it chose Joseph Baum, who pioneered the concept of restaurants as entertainment, to design and launch all the dining establishments. Baum and designer Warren Platner created a luxurious visual extravaganza for diners that opened in 1976. The Port Authority turned it over to Hilton International Hotel Co. in 1979.

The restaurant closed in 1993, after the first World Trade Center bombing. When the Port Authority held a competition for a new set of operators to reopen the restaurant, Baum, who died in 1998, won the contract. He and business partner David Emil renovated what was the nation's highest-grossing restaurant.

Windows on the World was a rare New York culinary institution. It was loved by locals, tourists and critics, particularly under the direction of executive chef Michael Lomonaco, who escaped injury.

"I was in the restaurant with a young Japanese couple 36 hours before it ceased to exist," says Tim Zagat, co-founder and co-chairman of the Zagat restaurant guides. "It was one of the great restaurants, not only in New York, but in the United States and in the world."

Heather McPherson is a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Correspondent Linda Shrieves also contributed to this report.

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