Composite shows the front of the original TBar's orange awning with the name written in black lettering. Inset is a photo of Tony Fortuna, an older man with a light complexion wearing glasses.
Upper East Site has learned the late culinary guru Tony Fortuna's T Bar will continue operating out of an Upper East Side townhouse | @tbarnyc, @tony_fortunanyc

Farewell Tony Fortuna: Iconic UES Restaurateur Passes Away

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The Upper East Side has lost a legend whose life well lived took him around the world before putting down roots in our neighborhood. Tony Fortuna, host and restaurateur of beloved T Bar, died on Friday, January 5th at 76 years old.

Most recently known for operating T Bar out of a townhouse on East 60th Street alongside a second outpost of the eatery in the Hamptons, Fortuna was a mainstay across culinary cultures both within New York and in Europe. 

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Photo shows the exterior of the first and second floors of a restaurant painted black with gold trim.
T Bar is located at 116 East 60th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues | Upper East Site

“Tony boasts a tenured career in the hospitality field,” reads a statement released by the restaurant on Instagram. “He dedicated 50 years to the restaurant industry, working under and alongside some of the biggest names before launching T Bar 27 years ago. He instantly developed a loyal following, and T Bar became an Upper East Side staple.”

Born Angelo Tony Fortuna on October 22, 1947, in Sant’Elia Fiumerapido, a province of Frosinone in the Lazio region of central Italy, the would-be restaurateur emigrated to Detroit with his parents and two siblings in 1955. 

Photo shows an older man with a light complexion and grey hair wearing dark blazer over a black sweater and glasses.
Iconic Upper East Side restaurateur Tony Fortuna passed away on Friday, January 5th, 2024 | @tbarnyc

A few years later, in the early 1960s, the family — which, at that point, included three other siblings –moved to a suburb of Paris, Marly-le-Roi, and Fortuna started working as a busboy in a restaurant owned by his brother. 

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Fortuna made his move back stateside in 1983, first working in Florida, then in Chicago at the Mayfair Regent Hotel, the city where he met and married Mary Hayden in 1985. The two divorced in 2004.

ALSO READ | Celebrity Chef Honors Grandmother with New UES Restaurant ‘Soledad’

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The culinary guru’s initial dive into New York’s gastronomic scene was back in 1986, when he opened Restaurant Lafayette with a then-unknown chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, after having worked in France as a maître d’hôtel for two decades. 

Screenshot shows a four paragraph biography of Tony Fortuna, as well as a photo of the restauranteur from 1998.
Tony Fortuna’s biography on Lenox Room’s website in 1998 | LenoxRoom.com via the Internet Archive

Throughout the years, Fortuna worked at the front of the house of instantly recognizable New York restaurants, including Tavern on the Green and Lespinasse inside the St. Regis hotel.  

In 1995, he officially conquered the Upper East Side when he partnered with restaurateur Charlie Palmer to open Lenox Room. The two subsequently debuted Metrazur inside Grand Central Terminal, a project that concluded when it shuttered in 2011. 

Fortuna became the sole owner of Lenox Room in 2000, and seven years later, in 2007, he changed the steakhouse’s name to T Bar and announced Arthur Backal of Backal Hospitality Group as his new partner. The two debuted a Southampton location of the restaurant in 2019.

Photo shows a restaurant on the ground floor of a white wood frame two story building.
Tony Fortuna opened an outpost of T Bar in Southampton in 2019 | @tbarnyc

In the fall of 2021, T Bar lost its lease on the 1278 Third Avenue address it had been inhabiting for decades. The next year, Fortuna was able to reopen the popular venue inside a townhouse at 116 East 60th Street, right near Bloomingdales, with an additional partner, Derek Axelrod.

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“What differentiated Tony from all other restaurateurs is that it wasn’t really about making money for him,” Axelrod told Upper East Site. “It was about taking care of the customer and making sure they had an unbelievable experience. His knowledge of front of the house was better than anyone in the business: he knew how to greet, serve and take care of a customer.”

Photo shows a close up of the front of the original TBar's orange awning with the name written in black lettering.
T Bar was forced from its original location on Third Avenue after its lease ended in 2021 | @tbarnyc

As Upper East Side residents are wont to note, T Bar has defined the neighborhood’s food scene for years now, joining the likes of J.G. Melon and Daniel in presenting dining options representative of the New York that once was. 

Folks in the know, like pastry chef Francois Payard and celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, both close friends of Fortuna’s, were seen dining on the premises frequently throughout the decades. 

T-Bar is located at 116 East 60th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues | Upper East Site

“Having lived above T Bar for 12 years, I had front-row tickets to experience Tony’s incredible talent for hospitality,” a neighborhood resident commented on Instagram. “His restaurant was my home on street level, and he was always kind and welcoming to me. What a great host. He will be missed dearly.”

ALSO READ | T Bar Returns to the UES as an Opulent Two-Story Destination

Similar words echo all throughout social media, praising Fortuna’s flair for honesty and friendship.

Photo shows two older men with light complexions in blazers and dress shirts and wearing glasses.
Tony Fortuna (right) seen with another New York dining icon, Frank Pellegrino Sr. (left), the owner of the famed restaurant Rao’s | @tony_fortunanyc

“Most generous man in the industry,” another user noted. “I reached out to him for advice, and [he] helped me and offered his friendship.”

The New York Times cited pancreatic cancer as Fortuna’s cause of death. 

Although Tony’s children, Danny, Matthew and Vince, have not opted for a career in the restaurant industry, Upper East Site confirmed that T Bar will live on under Axelrod’s guidance. 

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