The best way to describe Isabel’s Restaurant on West Main Street in Amsterdam for folks not old enough to remember it is that it really was the Raindancer of the 1950’s and 60’s. And today’s Amsterdam Birthday Blog celebrant truly was “the Guy” who made it “the place” to have dinner in this town for a period of over three decades.
When I was born in 1954, my family lived on Leonard Street, the one-block strip of two family homes dominated by the old (and now collapsing) Breton factory building. At the foot of that street, on the south side of West Main stood Isabel’s. Back then the place had no parking lot, so every Friday and Saturday night for most of my childhood, I can remember our street-lighted whiffle and kick-ball games getting continuously disrupted by the constant flow of late-model sedans that were parking to go to Isabel’s or just leaving the place after having dinner. It seemed as if every doctor, lawyer, businessman and politician in Amsterdam would show up for for a weekend meal.
The reason why? Well let me put it this way; I probably had dinner in there myself at least one hundred times and I never had a bad one. Everything was fresh and top quality; from the steaks veal and chops to the live lobsters crawling around in the cooler outside the kitchen door, to the hand cut French fried potatoes. Plus you were served by people who defined courteousness and professionalism, beginning with the two gray jacketed waiters who manned the famous booth room, Lou Frollo and Pup Isabel and the guy pouring the premium brand cocktails behind the classic long wooden bar, Louie’s brother Bam Frollo.
The kitchen staff was superb. You absolutely never had to wait too long for your meal, though you felt so darn comfortable within the unique personable atmosphere of the place, it wouldn’t have mattered if you did. You got exactly what you ordered prepared exactly the way you wanted it.
And it was Guy Isabel who put the whole production together, night in and night out. His parents had moved here from New York City the year before Guy was born in 1906. He was one of six children. He started out as a barber, before getting involved in the restaurant business. His older brother Alex had been a superb high school athlete who then got involved in coaching and City Government as the City’s Recreation Commissioner. That helped spread the Isabel name and make the restaurant a favorite meeting spot. But it was Guy and his wife Ida who figured out how to make sure all those patrons kept coming back. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, the cars kept on coming and parking on my street.
Guy had two children, a daughter Mildred a teacher and a son Joseph, who with his Dad would form a company that would soon make all of the television antennas in Amsterdam disappear from the rooftops. Unfortunately, Guy would not live to see Gateway Cable reach its full potential. Cancer claimed his life in 1972, at the age of 66.
Mike and Delores Aldi kept the restaurant running well for quite a few years afterward until it finally closed. I still miss going there to this day.