A tipster brought sad news this weekend: “Zucco, owner of Le French Diner passed away on Feb 13. [They’re] trying to raise money to send his body back to France to be buried next to his mother. Sad story.” Sadder still, our tipster says that Zucco (who never used a last name) collapsed behind the counter. We’ve been unable to reach the restaurant, but another source has heard Zucco died of “an apparent heart attack” and confirms, “there are signs outside the restaurant (which is still open) asking for donations to help pay to send his body back to France. His girlfriend was outside the restaurant yesterday kind of explaining all this to passersby.” This much is certain: We’ve lost a beloved host and proprietor.
Zucco, who once ran a boxing magazine in Paris (hence the pugilist tomes he kept in his bathroom), opened Brooklyn’s Café Lafayette before going on to create the sort of casual, homey French café that’s actually quite rare in this city, for all of its brasseries and wannabistros — he took orders himself and choreographed the seating (“I can seat 20 skinny people or 14 fat ones,” he once told the Times) so that a perch at the bar seemed like a real treat. It’s hard to imagine his hideaway going on without the namesake that gave it so much of its personality, but we’ll let you know when we hear more about its fate.