Zucco Memorial Service at Angel Orensanz Last Night

Posted on: February 18th, 2010 at 6:33 am by

Last night was the funeral service for the beloved Zucco, the proprietor of Le French Diner who passed away last weekend of a heart attack.  One reader, Steven Gibaldi, attended and emailed us some of his thoughts.

This image has been archived or removed.

[Zucco 12/22/07, Courtesy of Steven Gibaldi]

Once again, Angel Orensanz on Norfolk St. provided the space and context for another event reminding us why many of us have an attachment to the L.E.S., despite the latest tidal wave of changes to the neighborhood. Last night, a memorial service was held for Zucco, the founder and operator of Le French Diner at 188 Orchard Street since 2005. Zucco died of a heart attack on Valentine’s day eve, falling to his death on the cold, hard pavement in front of his French truck stop.

He has fed the neighborhood, nurtured romance, tempered lovers’ quarrels and provided a romantic, safe-haven for New Yorkers fleeing the commercial din that now dominates the once gritty corridors of the Lower East Side. Last night’s memorial service was a vivid testament to his adopted city and the roots of a neighborhood that embraced his vision and style.

This image has been archived or removed.

Zucco’s community of baby boomer, expatriate French speaking transplants paid tribute to him in song and words, employing the moods and sounds of pan-indigenous rhythms and the minimalist aesthetic, so dear to the contemporary intelligentsia. Ceremonial sticks of sage were burned, atonal bowls were chimed and dissonant horns were blown, all in tribute to this multi-dimensional and complex man.  But the most poignant tribute to this restaurateur was when a pack of humble, Mexican kitchen workers, all colleagues of Zucco, approached the open casket, aglow in the French blue lights illuminating the floor and eves surrounding the audience, and proceeded to prostrate before him and recite a prayer in Spanish, in voices that were authentic, emotional and empathetic, without any hipster posturing or cool reticence.

The boxes of tissues, strategically placed around the circle of the casket, displaying the once vibrant body of Zucco, were soon in great demand. For here was the embodiment of a good man, a liberal French intellectual who earned the respect of his fellow kitchen workers, in practice, and not just with slogans as so many of the Paris ’68 generation and their progeny have been guilty of. This spontaneous display of solidarity seemed to release the tension, allowing those who came to pay tribute, the psychological space to get out of their seats and approach the body, to show emotion, and pay their last respects to Zucco, a man who made the L.E.S. a destination, a place to wax poetic about, rather than to bemoan for what was.

Recent Stories

Here’s the Full List of Vendors for the New Essex Street Market, Debuting in a Few Weeks

The Essex Street Market is on the precipice of ditching its 79-year-old home for fancy new digs at Essex Crossing. All vendors currently in operation will cross Delancey for upgraded stalls, joining a gaggle of other newcomers. In fact, changes to the proverbial lineup have been myriad. The final roundup – there are forty total […]

Noid Again: Domino’s Pizza Opens in Luxury Stanton Street Building

Most often, luxury living tends to breed trendy or health-conscious establishments for retail partners. Not always, though. Over at the upscale 196 Stanton Street, the commercial units largely remained vacant ever since the complex debuted. Until now. They’ve resorted to chain pizza to fill the commercial void – Domino’s. This latest outpost – the second […]

‘Selina’ to Open NYC Flagship Hotel on the Bowery this June

Selina is coming to the Bowery sooner than you might think. The new eight-story development at 138 Bowery is basically ready to go. Long gone are the construction materials and fencework; and the lobby is already attended, with a receptionist sitting guard behind a desk. Selina seems to be in a preview mode of sorts […]

‘Mulberry Market’ Revises Opening Date in Little Italy to Early April

Mulberry Market did not open last month in Little Italy as previously disclosed. Worksite chatter indicates that the launch date was instead pushed back to “early April.” The new supermarket is apparently a “family business” that is years in the making. It replaces the decades-old MET Food, which was unable to negotiate favorable lease terms […]

Jonah Hill’s Vertigo-Inducing Vampire Weekend Music Video Just Dropped [VIDEO]

Vampire Weekend just dropped a music video for the new single, “Sunflower,” and they’re big-timing with the cast of characters. Directed by Jonah Hill, the trippy two-and-a-half-minute reel takes place at the iconic Zabars on the Upper West Side and Barney Greengrass, and quite literally spins (thanks for the vertigo, Jonah) past the likes of […]