Luncheonette

The Saga of Florent Takes an Unexpected Turn

Click to view. Zena Barakat/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Zena Barakat/NPR

A month ago, we profiled the closing of the famous New York restaurant Florent. Owner Florent Morellet was forced to close his namesake diner due to a skyrocketing rent price. Last week, there was a new plot twist in the Florent soap opera. The landlord, Joanne Lucas, will re-open the restaurant tomorrow under the name of the diner that existed before Florent opened his place in 1985: R & L Restaurant.

The original R & L was opened by Lucas' father in 1955. She told The New York Times she didn't have the heart to close the restaurant that had been in her family for years. The restaurant's look and food will remain basically the same, as Florent's chef is staying on board.

Last night, longtime friends of the restaurant convened for the final hours for what they know as Florent. Neighborhood regulars and former and current staff reunited for champagne and cake. Letters from the prophetic menu boards were packaged in tiny gift boxes as party favors.

Florent's waiters sound they haven't decided whether they'd stay. One who has worked at the restaurant for nine years says he'd consider it. "But it's not going to be the same," he told me.

The owner of Florent expressed no bitterness at the latest news. Standing outside the restaurant, he said he first heard rumors of the R & L Restaurant's return a couple of weeks ago. Florent maintains that he has been ready to move on, and even when pressed, he wouldn't say he was angry. He says he is tired of anger.

After a few more hugs and photographs with friends outside the restaurant, Florent then turned and joined the party inside to celebrate the restaurant that has been his life for the last 23 years.

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