Zagat called Esca on W43rd St beneath Manhattan Plaza a “heaven for fish lovers”. Last night, the owners announced the closure of the restaurant, after being in hibernation since early December.

Vic Rallo and Dave Pasternack at Esca in the fall when they reopened. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

“To all my friends and loyal customers, it is with great sadness that I am not going to reopen Esca after 21 years,” shared Chef Dave Pasternack.

Dave and co-owner Vic Rallo blamed the closure on the pandemic and not being able to reach an agreement with the landlord. They originally went into hibernation with the hope of reopening in the spring. This week, as scaffolding was being erected around Manhattan Plaza, the restaurant was being packed up.

Eaca this week with scaffolding surrounding Manhattan Plaza.

Esca reopened in the fall, with outdoor dining in the patio area. They faced challenges with this, as reported when a man came to the restaurant demanding money.

Customers, staff and chefs are saddened by the closure. TV Chef Marc Murphy said on Instagram: “So sorry. Was always my favorite restaurant in NYC. #crudoforever.”

Former colleague, Maria Arroyo, praised Dave saying: “Very sorry chef, hang in there! Thank you for my first NYC kitchen job. Definitely got my tough skin from you.”

Kate Gamble said: “Thank you for everything, Dave! Esca was, and always will be, a magical place to me and my family. I wish that I could have enjoyed one more bowl of Nantucket Bay oysters.”

“For over three-and-a-half years, I stood on the other side of the pass, putting up plates of food with Dave Pasternack. He was the chef, the owner, a maniac about product and a taskmaster when it came to the technical aspects of cooking fish. He wasn’t always easy to deal with, but it was because he had a vision for what he expected Esca to be, and as a cook you needed to live up to it,” shared Chef Jeffrey Butler, owner of Butler and the Board. “Today I found out that his home away from home was closing. It hit me, like I had just lost a friend. Restaurants are more than just a bunch of waiters and cooks. Restaurants create families out of groups of people. I am heartbroken tonight, the New York that I was part of when I was 25 is irrecoverably changed.”

Vic Rallo and Dave Pasternack talking about their reopening in October 2020.

Vic and Dave are planning to keep their New Jersey restaurants open. “Hopefully, we’ll meet again soon. For now I’m going fishing,” said Chef Pasternack.

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1 Comment

  1. Sentinel Fire Corp is saddened to hear this. We take pride in our part to keep fire prevention in the kitchen of this fine establishment. Hoping for a better future. Thank you Chef.

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