Day 4: On Sunday, I slept in and didn’t feel guilty one bit for it. I walked to Central Park as my dinner destination was in that direction. I was thrilled to  “unwrap” the southern part of the park in a slow-Christmas-morning-present-opening experience.

Southeast Central Park
Southeast Central Park

I strolled down paved paths trying to absorb the moment and there, to my left was a beautifully restored carousel. I’ve always been partial to carousels of yesteryear. They are an art form all their own. Needless to say, I happily paid the $2.50 to jump aboard. It brought back so many happy memories of my own childhood and that of my children.

I love them so much that I bought a carousel horse named Tim. During a time of severe depression and crisis, I sold him. Tim, I hope you have a great, loving home.

Refurbished Carousel in southeast portion of Central Park
Carousel in southeast Central Park
Carousel in southeast Central Park

My daughter, Ava, used to be an ice skating competitor and I can’t look at a rink and not think of those days. I can just see her out here showing them all how it’s done!

Ice skating rink in southeast Central Park

I took winding paths working my way back out of the park toward Il Vagabondo restaurant on 62nd Street between 2nd Avenue and 1st. It had been my favorite restaurant in New York.

The Cheers-type bar in the front at the bottom of the small stoop was empty for the first time. Of course, I was early (5:30 PM) and  it was Sunday when most people are trying to get ready for their week.

Charlie (left) keeps the place moving and grooving. Arber (right) is part of the wait staff.

First, I noticed that the wonderful old New York photos on the wall along with the red and white checkered table clothes had been removed and the place whitewashed. The last  time I was there about twenty years ago, the place was packed with a happy crowd waiting for their checkered table-cloth covered corner where you enjoyed the pictures of old New York City hung proudly on the walls.

The place is still complete with Bocce Court but it’s a much more refined experience than before. Even though Italian is still the primary language of the establishment, it’s sadly “less Italian” as the waiters are not rushing around gesturing as they call out orders in Italian toward the kitchen while they’re at least a whole room away. It was wonderful then.

Bocce Court is still to the right of the tables.

Now, the table clothes are white on white, the waiters wait much like a cruise ship and the ambiance lost in the desire to please their current clientele who know absolutely nothing about ambiance. Poor them.

I warned Sal, my waiter,  that I was going to take my time savoring the taste, touch and feel of the experience. I ordered a nice, sweet Pinot Grigio, stuffed mushrooms, Special Salad and a chicken-artichoke-lemon dish entrée.

Sal - what a wonderful young man. Ask for him if you go to Il Vagabondo

Be sure to ask for the olive oil of the bread-dipping variety as they won’t offer it. Funny, but I thought it was an Italian must! After all, I think it’s the only way to eat good bread in an Italian restaurant. The bread, though fresh, was of the baguette variety.

I did totally indulge by having coffee and dessert. The coffee was the best and the Tiramisu was light and a great way to finish a nice meal (half of which went home with me). And, yes, I did order decaf coffee so as to counter the glass of wine. After all, I had thirteen NYC blocks to walk back to the hotel in the dark. Heck, I was going to be up late anyway writing my notes and I did need some sobering up… and yes, I’m a cheap drunk. Always have been; that’s why I don’t usually indulge.