Puttin' On the Ritz Restaurant?


Jan 6, 2005
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In recent weeks, I've read more than one reference to Olympic's "Ritz" restaurant, and I have to wonder how accurate that is.

The Mauretania had a Ritz-Carlton a la carte restaurant, contracted for by Cesar Ritz himself, which would make it a legitimate reference. Leviathan had one, too - one of the most magnificent dining spaces I've ever seen in photos of any ship. But I am beginning to wonder if perhaps people referred to Olympic's and Titanic's a la carte restaurants as "Ritz" restaurants in the same way some Southerners refer to anything capable of keeping food cold as a "Frigidaire" - a generic use of a specific brand.

Does anyone know of an actual, contractual agreement for the use of the "Ritz" name on White Star liners? Has anyone seen any advertising or menu material specifically referring to any White Star restaurant operations with the name "Ritz?" I have seen some online references to Gatti's Adelphi and Strand restaurants as "Ritz" restaurants, but I don't know if this was a contractual relationship with Cesar Ritz, or again, a misuse of the name.

Since Gatti's operations in London were quite famous in their own right, I'm thinking that White Star was trying to give its passengers a brand comparable to Ritz, but not actually a Ritz-sanctioned operation.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Hmm. You've got me humming here, Sandy, with "Puttin' On the Ritz". Sadly, I know nothing that can help you historically. Where does "Ritz" come from? That might be a beginning?
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Monica: The term "Ritz" derives from Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz (1850-1918), who founded many hotels, most famously the Hotel Ritz in Paris. In Ritz's lifetime, the name "Ritz" was one to be reckoned with; it represented the very finest available accommodation and food, the latter produced in partnership with Auguste Escoffier himself. The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) termed Ritz "the king of hoteliers, and the hotelier of kings."

Ritz's approach to hotel-keeping was the beginning of today's system of chain hotels and franchising. He opened hotel after hotel, each offering the utmost luxury, comfort and cleanliness. The Ritz (and later, Ritz-Carlton) name meant so much to luxury travelers that both Cunard and United States Lines arranged for Ritz-Carlton to establish and operate the "Ritz" restaurants aboard Mauretania and Leviathan, in much the same manner that Gaspare Gatti was the concessionaire for the a la Carte Restaurants aboard Olympic and Titanic.

I have found an online hint that Gatti's operations in London were not of the same class as those of Cesar Ritz. In "Dinners and Diners: Where and How to Dine in London" (1899), a Lieutenant Colonel Newnham-Davis gives accounts of dining in most of London's better restaurants of the day, only thirteen years prior to Titanic's ill-fated voyage. His reviews include one for the Savoy, at that time managed by Ritz, and also one for Gatti's in the Strand. His story of dining at the Savoy is exactly what you'd expect, an excellent review of a super-luxury establishment. His account of Gatti's contains some startling information, though: Newnham-Davis describes it as very good value for money, a place where he would go when funds were low. It is clear that the writer did not consider Gatti's on a par with a Ritz operation, for all that he enjoyed Gatti's.

Newnham-Davis's book is online, here:

Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899

So, it is clear that the vaunted Ritz name was available for a price and under certain conditions; what is less clear is if the references to White Star Lines' Olympic-class a la carte restaurants as "Ritz" restaurants were authorized by Cesar Ritz. After Ritz's death in 1918, his name entered common usage to describe anything especially luxurious and glamorous, and even some things that were not - witness the Ritz cracker, which is an excellent cracker, but not anything created or approved of by Ritz himself.

P.S.: I should mention that Cesar Ritz retired in 1902, ten years before Titanic, due to failing health. His empire continued, but he was not personally in charge of every detail, as he had been previously.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Sandy, I think there has been an oft-repeated misunderstanding about the identity of Gaspare Gatti. This is part of a posting which I made several years ago here on ET:

I have doubts that the Gatti of Titanic fame had any connection with the Gatti brothers who owned those restaurants (ie Gatti Strand and Gatti Adelphi, along with the theatre of the same name). They were Swiss, whereas 'our' Gatti was Italian and according to his biography here on ET he was the only one of his family to come to England. The Gatti brothers' restaurants offered good quality food for a reasonable price, rather than the top quality (and top priced) service obtainable at venues like the Savoy, under the management of the famous Cesar Ritz. Gaspare (Luigi) Gatti is known to have worked at Oddenino's Imperial Restaurant, which was located in Regent Street near Piccadilly Circus, and possibly earlier for Ritz at the Savoy. Oddenino himself had earlier managed the Cafe Royal, another of London's top restaurants. This was the background that prepared Gatti for running the 'Ritz' restaurants on the Olympic and Titanic.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Bob: Thank you very much for the information; this probably explains the disparity of status I noted in my post. Newnham-Davis's book does not mention Oddenino's, though it does review the Cafe Royal. Both were active establishments at the time of his writing, the Cafe Royal being founded in 1865 and closed in 2008, and Oddenino's supposedly active from 1880 through 1946.

Auguste Oddenino himself is extensively mentioned in the Cafe Royal review, as "little Oddenino."

The plot, as they say, thickens.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Bob: I forgot to mention that the review of the Cafe Royal mentioning Oddenino can be found here:

Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 29 - The Cafe Royal (Regent Street)

Newnham-Davis gives his opinion, plus listing a sumptuous menu; he also gives a recipe for a new dish of Oddenino's, filets de sole St.-Augustin, which should come in very handy whenever dealing with that oversupply of truffles which I am sure plagues us all.
 

Bob Godfrey

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No worries, Sandy, I'm familiar with Newnham-Davis' book. It was when I first read the section on Gatti's Strand restaurant and the Adelphi that I began to think, as did you, that something wasn't right and maybe all those online biographies of 'our' Gatti had jumped to a wrong conclusion. There was actually yet another well-known Gatti at that time, who was even further downmarket with an involvement in music halls (vaudeville theatres), snack bars and ice cream parlours. So London had a (different) Gatti catering for the culinary needs of each section of the community - 3rd and 2nd as well as 1st Class. And 'our' Gatti, who alone among them had every right to place himself in the 'Ritz' category, was a comparatively anonymous character compared to his namesakes who operated well-known establishments with a much broader appeal.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Bob: I do still have to wonder if all these Gattis were somehow connected. You have mentioned Italian ancestry for "our" Gatti and Swiss for "those" Gattis, but Switzerland borders Italy, of course, so it seems possible there is some relation.

But all of this still begs the question: Are references to the Olympic-class a la carte restaurants as "Ritz restaurants" correct somehow, or were people just using "Ritz" to refer to the restaurants' luxe and culinary ambitions? If Gaspare Gatti worked for Oddenino, he might easily have worked and/or apprenticed at the Savoy, at that time managed by Cesar Ritz. Ritz and Escoffier were dismissed from London's Savoy in 1897 over accusations of misappropriated spirits and supplier kickbacks. Ritz opened the Ritz Hotel in Paris the following year, so this was a professionally active time when Gatti's path might easily have crossed Ritz's. Talent capable of upholding Ritz's standards could not have been easy to come by. At any rate, I'm still wondering if somehow Gatti gained the right to use the Ritz name.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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I must take a moment here to correct myself. In two posts in this thread, I have mentioned a Ritz-Carlton restaurant aboard Mauretania. That is incorrect; I meant Berengaria, formerly Imperator. For some reason, I confuse those two liners, which is a tendency I promise to watch in future.

One thing, at least, has become clearer, pending verification from a reliable print source:

In the Wikipedia article on Auguste Escoffier, one paragraph treats upon Escoffier's and Ritz-Carlton's affiliation with the Hamburg-Amerika Line, at that time owner of Imperator, later Berengaria. It therefore appears that the existence of a Ritz-Carlton restaurant aboard Berengaria dates from the liner's beginning, and that Cunard must have made arrangements for the concession to continue after Imperator was given over as war reparations. Brochures for Imperator show its Ritz-Carlton restaurant, clearly labeled as such, with M. Escoffier mentioned as chef de cuisine. It's my understanding that Berengariia's brochures also detail the availability of the Ritz-Carleton restaurant, but I have not yet seen an actual brochure, only Internet photos scanned from one, so I don't know exactly what Cunard's ad copy said. It would seem possible to infer that Leviathan's Ritz-Carlton restaurant came about by similar means; Leviathan was built as Vaterland, again for Hamburg-Amerika, and seized by the United States in New York when war broke out, becoming first a troopship and then a liner again for United States Lines, under the direction of William Francis Gibbs.

Imperator's Ritz-Carlton facilities appear to have outclassed anything available from White Star Line or Cunard, within only two years of Olympic's entry into service. The race for North Atlantic supremacy, it would seem, was on.
 

Dave Gittins

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I think the Ritz business is just a misunderstanding, based on dodgy sources. The handout given to first class passengers simply calls it the a la carte restaurant. It was managed by White Star which had appointed Mr L Gatti, late of Oddenino's Imperial Restaurant to run it. I'd be surprised is anybody can produce White Star material that calls it the Ritz.
 

Bob Godfrey

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For that matter, which passengers referred to it as the Ritz? Lucy Duff Gordon mentioned that the restaurant was so good "you would think you were at the Ritz", which would be an odd thing to say if it actually was an officially sanctioned Ritz restaurant.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Bob: I wasn't referring to passenger references; I was referring to writers who have referred to Titanic's a la Carte restaurant as a "Ritz" restaurant. Here's one such reference from ET:

From Bryan Ticehurst:

"The Ritz Restaurant (as it was called) was situated on B deck and was for the exclusive use of First Class passengers only."

Ritz Restaurant Staff on the Titanic by Brian J. Ticehurst :: Titanic Research

A Google search on "ritz restaurant titanic" brings up a fair number of hits, some of which are obviously sourced from Ticehurst (the parenthetical 'as it was called' is repeated verbatim in several). Here is one that not only repeats what I am beginning to suspect is the canard of the Ritz name, but also completely cuts loose the ties of reality, terming Titanic's a la Carte "arguably the best restaurant in the world" (um, excuse me - Escoffier was still managing the cuisine of many establishments, notably London's Carlton), refers to Dom Perignon as Titanic's Champagne (hey, how about some Piper-Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut, White Star's known choice?), and terms Gaspare Gatti the a la Carte's "manager" when he was actually a concessionaire:

"The Ritz Restaurant (as it was called) on board the Titanic arguably was the finest restaurant in the world. It was for the exclusive use of first class passengers only. This restaurant was in addition to the already sumptuous first class dining saloon. The Ritz Restaurant was under the control of the Titanic’s corporate owner White Star Line, who appointed Luigi Gatti as manager who they hired from Oddenino’s Restaurant one of the finest at the time in London."

The Last Dinner on the Titanic : Transforming Today's World Magazine

So, this usage is getting around a bit, and I'd like to be able to set the record straight if I can.
 

Bob Godfrey

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"The Ritz Restaurant (as it was called) ..." Indeed, but called by whom, Sandy? That's why I mentioned passengers, whose letters and memoirs might well be the only primary sources for such usage of the phrase. In which case it was likely used (perhaps with a snobbish connotation) as a generic term for any fine restaurant. Brian Ticehurst is a regular here and will hopefully drop in to shed some light if he has a primary source for a more legitimate claim by the White Star Line that the Titanic or Olympic were provided with a 'Ritz Restaurant'.
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Bob: Thanks for your reply. I definitely understand that the origin of these references may rest with passengers. I'm only trying to be 100% certain that there was no more formal claim to the "Ritz" name.
 

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