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Bob Levy| Farewell, Locke-Ober

Locke-Ober: Serving clients both famous and fussy

Longtime Locke-Ober employee Alfredo “Butch” Bartolizzi, right, talks with Paul Christopher of Haverhill, left, at the bar in December 1996. In its heyday, the restaurant was a magnet for celebrities as well as local politicians and writers.

The Boston Globe/file 1996

Longtime Locke-Ober employee Alfredo “Butch” Bartolizzi, right, talks with Paul Christopher of Haverhill, left, at the bar in December 1996. In its heyday, the restaurant was a magnet for celebrities as well as local politicians and writers.

Locke-Ober had a row of private dining rooms on the upper floor, and it was there on one of my first visits that I witnessed the restaurant’s eagerness to please its frequently prominent clientele. The guest the late Joseph Alsop, the influential and famously snobbish columnist, who was up from Washington to get caught up on Boston’s school busing woes in the 1970s by dining with a couple of Boston Globe journalists.

When the waiter imposed on our preprandial cocktail to take our orders, Alsop ignored the menu and pointedly asked: “My man, would your kitchen have a thick mutton chop?” After a bit of a pause, the waiter assured Alsop the request could be granted. “Also,” Alsop continued, “I’d like some cole slaw. But do you cut your cole slaw thin?” The now-bemused waiter pondered the fussy question and said he would pass along the inquiry.

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When plates arrived Alsop took knife and fork to a huge lamb chop and a side plate mounded with cole slaw that appeared to have been shaved finely with a scalpel.

Of course my own culinary impulse was to head straight for the opulent signature dish of the restaurant, lobster Savannah, presented dramatically with the carapace of a 2-pound lobster cut open and the shell filled with a ridiculously rich stuffing redolent of sherry and pimento but dominated by succulent chunks of lobster meat.

That dish, so over the top, spoke to the restaurant’s luxurious pretentions, a high-ticket menu item ringing in at more than $60 in the later years of the restaurant.

Robert Levy is a former Globe restaurant critic.
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