January 3, 2011
In my 20's I went there regularly, not for the food—I never had a truly great meal there—but for the crowd. It was the type of place you might run into Woody Allen or Gregory Peck, you might be seated next to a table of pinky-ringed Italian men in shark skin suits, or you might find yourself next to a Mets pitcher who ate there for good luck. Why this place? The room was nothing special, just a dark rectangle hung with low grade office ceiling tile. The lighting was lousy, and there were those damned plastic flowers in cheap sconces. It wasn't like Dan Tana's in LA, with it's red leather booths and feel of faded glamour. Gino's was almost lowbrow, but it had an irresistible sense of style regardless. The yellow door was just the right yellow, the green sign was EXACTLY what it was supposed to be, and the red zebra wallpaper was... well, perfect. The zebras, in addition to being on the walls, could be found on the matches and the napkins and the doors to the bathrooms. Gino must have known he was on to something, because those zebras became design icons in their own right. Without the zebras, the room is nothing special. I always said the zebras helped carry the place through time.
When the restaurant was slated to close Gay Talese wrote, "All the items on the menu appear on a single plastic-covered page and were handwritten in ink sixty-five years ago by the restaurant’s founder, Gino Circiello, a dapper and debonair trendsetter in 1945 who thereafter ignored all trends. Even a year after his death at eighty-nine, in 2001, when the restaurant was described in the Zagat Survey as “frozen in the 40’s,” the regulars liked to boast that, at Gino’s, nothing was new: within the zebra-covered walls of this place everything remained the same, including the fact that a stripe was missing from the rumps of half the zebras—a mistake made by the original designer which Mr. Gino, a superstitious Italian of Neapolitan origin, chose not to correct, because to do so, he feared, might bring him bad luck." (full article)
Don't know why I was thinking about Gino's today, but I wanted the wallpaper for my computer. I couldn't find a digital copy so I made one myself: Gino's Digital Zebra Wallpaper. I left the stripe off the rump.