By Jan Wallman
La Vie a La Mediterranee Restaurant
Ernesto Morel, the perspicacious and charming host/owner of La Mediterranee Restaurant (947 Second Avenue between East 50 and 51 Streets) has wisely upped business in this very pleasant French bistro by adding more live music.
For over twenty years, he has had the accomplished piano soloist Harold Don (who at one time was accompanist to Edith Piaf) play dinner music nightly until 10 PM. Mid-summer of last year, Ernesto added the songs and piano of popular Chris Barrett in a later time slot (10 PM-1 AM), proving that New York City can still be a late-evening town if there is an attraction to bring people in. Chris is now back home in Florida, performing weekends at the Magnum Lounge in North Miami, but he promises to return to New York and “La Med” in the late spring.
Ernesto has meanwhile brought in other talented musicians: “Dr. Joe” Utterbach, Lenny Dell, Steve Bocchino and Charlie Sleeth, to play for the stay-up-late crowd, keeping them warm, well-fed and entertained on these cold winter nights.
In December Ernesto created a musical Sunday afternoon from 1 PM to 4 PM, featuring a most inviting a la carte Sunday brunch menu, plus stand-up singer Scot Albertson and singer/pianist/ seven-time MAC Award winner Jerry Scott and lots of drop-in singers for Scot to introduce and bring up to the microphone and for Jerry to accompany. You never know just whom you’ll hear. It’s a mixed bag. Frequently you’ll be lucky and East 50s neighborhood favorite Helen Klass will put in an appearance and share her talent. Another regular is funnyman Richard Cramer who is always good for a couple of hilarious songs.
Scot Albertson recently released his fourth CD, "With Every Note, a Step", with Daryl Kojak and a great group of musicians, plus Jerry as guest pianist on three tracks. With his mellifluous voice and range for days, Albertson is a great interpreter of the American popular song. It seems to be his mission to discover songs from way before his time, beautiful ballads from the 30s and 40s that deserve to be heard today. Often he arranges songs in medleys--- for instance, Noel coward’s “Sail Away’ with “No Other Love” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Scot and Jerry and their audiences have fun with forgotten comedic songs of the earlier decades, groaners like “Pass the Biscuits, Mirandy” or “Save the Bones for Henry Jones.” They also find and excel at by today’s writers. Last Sunday, they warmed my heart with a great take on Franklin Underwood’s ballad, “Be Warmer This Winter.” The Sunday brunch sets have become so successful that Ernesto has now booked Albertson and Scott to also do the Wednesday late evening gig.
I suggest you plan to check out this venue by popping in any evening for the late entertainment or reserve earlier for dinner and stay on. Brunch reservations are a must. Between the beautifully prepared and served gustatory menu, a well-chosen wine list and the eclectic music menu, you are sure to be pleased and will want to come back. And as for drinks at the well-stocked bar, you can enjoy favorite bartender/singer Todd Martin, known by one and all as “Hot Toddy.”
La Mediterranee is at 947 Second Avenue between East 50 and East 51 Streets; the phone number is 212-755-4155.