The great restaurant titan Sirio Maccioni has fed popes, presidents, Woody Allen and Sophia Loren. The other night, he fed me delicious Black &White Tagliolini, and we talked about his famous regulars.
“Pavarotti was not an easy person,” Sirio said at a table in Aria’s graceful Sirio Ristorante. His son Mauro smiled lovingly by his side.
Sirio, 78, still speaks with his native Tuscan accent, and he still oversees the famed Le Cirque and Circo in New York and in the Bellagio.
Decades ago, he came to Vegas and shared Dom Perignon and pasta with Steve Wynn when Wynn was building the Bellagio.
“I like him very much. It’s better to be on his side than against him.”
Sirio also came to Vegas as a friend of Frank Sinatra.
“He was a true Sicilian. Him too — it was better to be on his side than against him. He was a very generous man.
“Every morning at 10:30, I had to call him,” Sirio said. “Every morning at 10:30: ‘Please call me.’ Then I realized that even big men needed somebody to talk to.”
Sinatra was difficult.
“After every meal, he would leave a little piece of white paper that said either ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Mauro said. “If it said ‘yes,’ it meant everything was good. If it was ‘no,’ my father would have to call him the next morning and find out what was wrong.”
Sirio told Sinatra, “Francis, you’re a great singer, I know all your songs, but you don’t know anything about food.’”
Sirio got back at Sinatra after Sinatra hosted a meal for Ronald Reagan.
“We went to the dinner. When I left, I left a piece of paper: ‘No.’ I gave it to Sinatra. He got upset.”
Sinatra boycotted Sirio’s restaurant for two years after that.
Sinatra and Mia Farrow fought often in New York’s Le Cirque.
“They’d come at 8 o’clock. By 8:30, she’d throw a glass of wine in his face. He slapped her. She left. He said, ‘Now we have dinner.’”
Sirio is very fond of Farrow’s other famous ex, Woody Allen.
“He orders a great (bottle of) wine. He drinks not even half a glass, then he gives it to the people around him.
“He told me once, ‘I feel like a man since I’ve been married to her,’” meaning Soon-Yi Previn.
How about Frank Zappa? “He was very good, very revolutionary.”
Pope John Paul II: “The pope ate at 5 o’clock in the morning.”
Andrea Bocelli: “Friendly.”
Sophia Loren: “Not easy.”
Robert De Niro: “De Niro is another person who it’s better to be on his side than against him.”
Sirio’s favorite famous person to have talked with is President Carter.
“Jimmy Carter is the most intelligent. Jimmy Carter is a good man,” Sirio said. “If you don’t like him, I don’t want to know about your political reasons.”
I told him, “I can only imagine how many marriages you saved by not spreading secrets.”
“All of them,” Sirio joked, and he joked again, “I get along with everybody, because I don’t believe anybody.”
He hates aging.
“One time, I was young. I was skinny. I was elegant. Getting old is terrible.”
I tempted him: “If the pope came to you and said, ‘I can make you 30 again, but you would lose everything,’ would you do that to be young again?”
“Yes!” Sirio said. “I would do anything to be young again. I wouldn’t murder anybody. But I love life.”
Then he signed my copy of his book “Sirio: The Story of My Life and Le Cirque.”
“It’s very true, whatever is inside.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Page 3A in the main section on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.