Lady Gaga a No-Show at Dad's Restaurant Opening
UPPER WEST SIDE — Her Poker Face was a no show, but that didn't stop the Little Monsters.
Devoted Lady Gaga fans hoping for a glimpse of the pop superstar flocked to Joanne Trattoria, her dad's new restaurant on West 68th Street and Columbus Avenue, for its official opening on Wednesday night.
Gaga visited the restaurant on New Year's Eve to host a celeb-filled party, but on Wednesday an employee at the door said the singer wouldn't be attending opening night because she was in L.A.
That didn't stop some Gaga fans, affectionately known as Little Monsters, from dreaming of an encounter with the "Bad Romance" singer. Some were rewarded with a Gaga-related sighting. Singing legend Tony Bennett, who recently recorded a duet of "The Lady is a Tramp" with Gaga and sketched a nude portrait of her, arrived about 9:15 p.m. for dinner.
"I heard there's a 99 percent chance she'll be here. She's very supportive of her parents, so I'm hoping she'll be here," gushed 21-year-old Anthony Carter, who traveled to the Upper West Side from Staten Island because he wanted to show support for Gaga and her parents.
"Her music speaks to me, especially being of the gay community," Carter said. "Anything you can do to support her, you do."
Gabrielle Drake, 10, and her 8-year-old sister Olivia stopped by Joanne to peer in the front window because they like Gaga's message, which is "to stop bullying and to be yourself," they said.
A shy 18-year-old in a Lady Gaga T-shirt who declined to give his name said the singer had changed pop music — and his life.
"She literally taught the world to be themselves and to be brave," said the ardent fan, who was holding a Lady Gaga CD and said his favorite Gaga tune is "Born this Way."
"We owe her everything. Without her, I wouldn't be brave," he said.
The young fan said he was surprised that more Little Monsters hadn't lined up outside the restaurant, which is booked solid until March, according to a recent tweet by chef Art Smith, a onetime personal chef for Oprah Winfrey who runs several restaurants across the country.
The crowd on opening night seemed to include more family and friends than fans. One woman said she was an old pal of Gaga's parents, Joe and Cynthia Germanotta, who live two blocks from the restaurant and are well known in the neighborhood. She said she fondly remembered when Stefani — Gaga's real name — was a waitress at a nearby Italian restaurant.
Despite its high wattage celebrity connection, Germanotta has said he wants Joanne Trattoria to be a neighborhood restaurant.
"It's not going to be flashy," Germanotta told DNAinfo in October when he first started renovating the space. "It's somewhere in between homey and fine dining."
But some locals said they worried the fame factor would turn Joanne into a neighborhood nuisance.
"I'm happy for her and her family, but every time we get something new with a celebrity, it does affect the quality of life in the neighborhood," said Kate, a woman who lives across from the famed Dakota, where John Lennon was shot, and is sick of tour buses.
"I saw the cameras (outside Joanne) and I was like, 'Oh no,'" she said.
"We're never going to go," said a woman walking by the restaurant. "It's going to be insane. Everyone waiting to catch a glimpse."
But others said they were glad to see a new restaurant thriving in the space once occupied by Vince & Eddie's, a restaurant the Germanottas invested in that closed in March 2011.
Smith promised Wednesday night that Joanne would fit in with other Upper West Side eateries.
"We're in a friendly neighborhood and we have friendly food," said Smith. "We love the Upper West Side and how people like to eat in little restaurants that have been here forever.
"That's what we're all about. I'm not one of those big fancy chefs. I'm a family chef who happens to cook for well-known people. Tonight we're going to cook family food."
Smith's menu at Joanne features Italian classics like spaghetti with "Sunday gravy" and meatballs, with some of Smith's signature Southern touches, like bread pudding with Bourbon sauce.
With Joanne set to open at 5 p.m., Smith ducked out about 4:20 p.m. for a quick run in Central Park.
"You gotta keep the sexy going," Smith said. "You always have to make time for health."