Caffè Taci Opera Nights at Papillon Restaurant

Just listen to their aria, and you will feel euphoria.
It's irresistible to stop in at Leopoldo Mucci's Caffè Taci late Saturday night in Papillon restaurant, in its Belle Époque upstairs rooms. Puccini traded places with Bizet when Taci moved from Greenwich Village to this midtown French restaurant just one night a week. Gone is the menu with Don Giovanni Lasagna and Figaro Fusilli. How can we not miss that? But there are beautiful frittes and an appetizing menu heavy on grilled sea food, with many appetizers, seasonal side dishes, and trippy desserts. 

You dine on white linen and a waiter brings around a giant basket of fresh rolls. People dress up to come here, just like at the Met Opera. There's an excellent grilled hamburger, for those who can't afford the Grand Tier or Dress Circle at the Met. All of the seats at Caffè Taci cost the same. There's no cover charge you're asked to spend a mere minimum of $35 and to tip the performers. 

The singers are why you are there, expertly performing arias each has perfected. Then duets and a brilliant competitive rendition of O sole mio, and perhaps a group singalong to La Vie en Rose. It couldn't be more thrilling. Pianist Iya Fedotova begins the night at 8:30, with Midnight in Moscow, and in this opera overture, the occasional Broadway show tune sneaks in. The first singer takes the stage at 9, and the party continues until past 1 a.m. Sometimes internationally famous cast members from operas arrive late, once they've finished a performance at the Met or City Opera.

It would be great if, as in the past, Taci had its own restaurant and performed opera nightly, instead of using Papillon just on Saturdays. The opera loving crowd in New York would support it. We wish for better lighting on the small stage, so we could see the person behind the supernatural voice. (Leopoldo claims they "like the dark.") While Iya Fedotova is thanked, and can never be thanked enough for the magic she creates, the singers are rarely introduced. Taci could take better care of its artists. When an emerging opera star does something powerful and amazing, you want to know her name and to follow her career. A simple program would provide a diva with something to autograph.

In the photo: Robert Garner, Charles Coleman, Tiffany Abban, Joseph LaSalle, Noelle Barbera, StacyLyn Bennett, Jennifer Gliere, and José Heredia. And in this clip, Robert Garner and Brad Cresswell nail Bizet's Toreador.