Photo of Sirio Maccioni at Le Cirque in 1981 by Slim Aarons

Grab your Smoky Conquistador and join us, darlin’. We were just about to sit down for a chat with our friend, famed restaurateur, Sirio Maccioni. Surely you’ve heard of his iconic New York restaurant, Le Cirque. Their divine crème brûlée is world renowned. Still debonair and charming at the age of 83, Sirio is one of the most skilled and gracious party hosts of all time. Over the last 40 years, he has hosted at the restaurant everyone from Frank Sinatra (“difficult but generous”), Frank Zappa (“revolutionary”) and Sophia Loren (“not easy”) to presidents and popes. He also helped launch the careers of many illustrious chefs including David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, Jacques Torres and Geoffrey Zakarian. Just in time for our holiday dinner parties, let’s get some thoughts on hosting from the (circus) master himself. Right this way, darling.

What is the key to being a skilled host?
Be normal and natural as a person and a host.

Jacqueline Onassis with Sirio at Le Cirque

What is your best tip for always making sure your guests feel welcome?
It is something you either have innately or you don’t.

What defines a great guest?
Somebody who knows more than you do without saying so.

Sirio with Pope John Paul II

You have hosted every VIP in the arts, politics, business and fashion. Who was your favorite guest?
Pope John Paul II. There are three people who I respect: my grandmother when she was alive, my wife and the Pope.

How do you deal with difficult guests?
Professionally and with as much courtesy as possible. Then we hope they don’t return.

Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Someone who doesn’t want to have dinner with me.

Sirio dressed and ready to host at Le Cirque

How has entertaining changed over the last four decades?
It is getting worse. Everything is different now. People’s objectives have changed a lot.

Who do you consider to be some of the best party hosts today?
It seems that people no longer know what it is to be a good host. Most have become well-known because they are vulgar.

How often do you entertain at home?
Not very often. About every other month.

What kind of entertaining do you like to do at home?
Mostly small dinner parties. I really enjoy having the family and grandchildren over when my wife [Egidiana, who runs Le Cirque’s sister restaurant, Osteria del Circo] cooks.

Sirio Maccioni

Sirio and former Le Cirque chef, Daniel Boulud

What has been your greatest joy during your career?
Being able to be successful and support my family.

What has been your greatest challenge?
Surviving in New York.

What has been your greatest triumph?
My wife and my family.

Le Cirque is located at 151 E 58th Street, New York, NY, 10022. For reservations, call 212.644.0202.

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