Q & A

Sirio Maccioni
Le Cirque's Legendary Ringleader

Sirio Maccioni
Owner, Le Cirque 2000 and Osteria del Circo

Party rule: "Be flexible, because someone will always want a salad, vegetables or a piece of fish."

Best bash: Son Mario's wedding at Le Cirque's original location. Maccioni shut the restaurant down on a Saturday night for the party's 120 guests.

March 19, 2001, 12:00 AM EST

Surprisingly, Sirio Maccioni, owner of Manhattan's lavish four-star restaurant Le Cirque 2000, is a proponent of simplicity when it comes to entertaining.

“People tend to over-order when they give a party,” says Maccioni, whose Technicolor restaurant has several party venues and frequently hosts the city's power brokers. “A party should be balanced. The most important thing when [guests] sit at the table is that they understand what's on the plate. [People] like what they recognize, like a good roast chicken.”

Those may sound like shocking words, coming from a man whose tony restaurant serves some of the world's most sophisticated diners. Recent party-givers and guests of honor include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joan Rivers, Liz Smith and Revlon's CEO, Ronald Perelman, who celebrated his wedding to actress Ellen Barkin at the restaurant. Maccioni's experience makes him an expert in pleasing New York's most spoiled guests.

The Tuscan-born restaurateur came to the United States in 1956 and opened Le Cirque in 1974 at the Mayfair Hotel; it later moved to the landmark Villard Houses at the Palace Hotel. Maccioni's three sons, Mauro, Mario and Marco, help run Le Cirque and Maccioni's second New York restaurant, Osteria del Circo, as well as another Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Maccioni finds that New Yorkers' eating habits have changed in recent years. “It's much more simple now. We don't use all that butter and cream,” he says. “Simple food is much more difficult to prepare.” But simple doesn't mean boring. In designing a party menu, Maccioni offers this advice: “End the meal with a great surprise, like an extra dessert or glass of sweet wine.”

Maccioni also believes a party's setting is very important, an idea reflected in his restaurant's colorful, whimsical look--the work of the preeminent restaurant designer Adam D. Tihany.

The restaurant's wine cellar can be turned into a party space that accommodates 30, while the exterior courtyard--with its festive strands of lights and animal topiaries--can hold 100. Upstairs, above Le Cirque's main dining rooms and bar, are a majestic, wood-paneled library, which can seat as many as 70 people, and a room called L'Orangerie, which can accommodate 150. Events often move from cocktails in the library to a meal in L'Orangerie.

The New York office of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is holding its annual Oscar bash at Le Cirque on Sunday, March 25. Last year's event brought 120 guests to L'Orangerie. “Sirio was there with his whole family, so you can imagine how great the service was,” says Arthur Manson, chairman of the academy's New York events committee. “The way he handled it made it a wonderful evening.”

In addition to its famous diners, Le Cirque also caters to numerous corporate clients, ranging from investment banks Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Bear Stearns to pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.

Yet even with his high-powered--and high-spending--customers, Maccioni doesn't condone buying tremendously expensive wine. At least not all the time. “You can have a good bottle of wine for $20,” he says. And then, perhaps after reconsidering the consequences of such a statement: “Or if you want to impress them with Petrus, you can spend $20,000.”

Posted 03.19.01

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