Remembering Joseph Santo

Santo's most celebrated restaurant.

Restauranteur Joseph Santo, who died this month from heart surgery complications at age 84, operated a portfolio of Upper East Side restaurants, though Sign of the Dove was by far his most famous. The Times called its gaslamp light and stained glass "enchanting" within months of its opening, and for years it reigned among the city's most romantic restaurants. In 1977, the restaurant took on a scandalous reputation when esteemed author Jessica Mitford doled out an account of an epically bad meal (the police were almost called) for New York, and the takedown took on a strange dimension after some connected to the restaurant sent letters to the magazine denouncing Mitford as a drunk. Whatever the truth of that night was, it worked in the Dove's favor: The restaurant flourished in its original location for 35 years, closing only for a construction project in 1998. [NYT, New York]