Passionate about wine, she has set the high standards of the place
Lidia Goldner, a restaurateur and wine enthusiast who for nearly 40 years was credited with raising the foodie scene in Palm Beach, died Thursday, February 10, 2022 after a long illness. She was 78 years old.
Ms. Goldner was born in 1943 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
She studied interior design at the Parsons School of Design in New York and worked for 16 years as a purser for Pan-American Airlines.
Fluent in five languages, in 1972 she married Norbert Goldner, a German native and graduate of Cornell University who ran notable New York restaurants.
Mrs. Goldner was able to put her perfectionism and love of food, wine and high style to work when she and her husband opened Café L’Europe in 1980 on the Esplanade on Worth Avenue.
It became an instant hit, with a champagne and caviar bar and black-tie waiters, a formality that would later subside in the restaurant.
The Goldners moved the restaurant in 1995 to a larger space they redesigned at the corner of South County Road and Brazilian Avenue.
The death of Mr. Goldner in 2018 ushered in a new owner and overhaul at Café L’Europe under the Marcello family.
“When Lidia and Norbert opened Café L’Europe, they redefined fine dining in Palm Beach,” said Mark Marcello. “They are legendary. My family feels blessed, we can be guardians of what they started. Lidia was such a gifted restorer.
For more than 35 years, the Goldners have worked in the front and back of the house, Lidia filling the space daily with elegant arrangements of fresh flowers, one of her hallmarks. Night after night, Mrs. Goldner before the service reviewed the names in the reservation book, thinking of “what we remember about each person, what to ask them, what they like”, said she said one day.
“She made everyone feel special,” said longtime customer Sheila Hammond. “She welcomed and spoke to everyone whether you are new to the restaurant or have been coming for years. When we dined there for a special family occasion, Lidia had silverware, china and crystal from her own collection.
Long-time Café L’Europe customer Susan Yelvingon said Ms Goldner “has met dinner time in Palm Beach all these years”.
“With Norbert, she created a dining experience that people wanted then,” Yelvington said. “They welcomed us into that old European glam feeling of Palm Beach. Lidia then knew the heartbeat (of Palm Beach).”
Colleagues and employees recalled, in part, that Ms. Goldner could be demanding at times, but in the service of developing their strengths and maintaining the restaurant’s high standards.
“I always understood and respected what Lidia wanted to accomplish,” said Palm Beach restaurateur Thierry Beaud, whose early career included a managerial job at Café L’Europe. “She gave me the opportunity to help run the wine program and we spent countless hours together talking about wine and I learned a lot from her.”
While Mr. Goldner “brought composure, Lidia brought fiery passion and inspiration; they were a perfect team,” said Daniel Smith, managing director of PB Catch, who worked for years at Café L’Europe before 2011. “To many, Lidia was like a second mum.
Donald Antlsperger, who for decades held various senior positions at Café L’Europe, said Ms Goldner enjoys setting the stage for memorable events, including Halloween parties and Oscars at the restaurant. “Lidia was so creative and brought style and elegance to it all,” he said.
Ms. Goldner has received various wine-related honors over the years and was proud of her induction into the Cercle des Amis de la Veuve of the Veuve Clicquot champagne house, Antlsperger said.
Under the Goldners’ leadership, the restaurant earned high marks from critics and awards such as the Fine Dining Hall of Fame Award from Nation’s Restaurant News and the Ivy Award from Restaurants & Institutions.
Her friends and others who knew her also remember Mrs. Goldner as a caring confidant who faced health and other issues with Mr. Goldner by her side until her death devastates her.
She was also “spirited and fun” and enjoyed a good time when her restaurant schedule allowed, said friend Mary Hornsby, 40.
“We once went to a Patti LaBelle concert and we were sitting next to each other and I watched for a moment and there she was, standing in her seat, dancing,” said said Hornsby.
“One thing I think not many people knew about Lidia,” Hornsby added, “is that she was quietly nice to many less fortunate people and never said a word. She paid him well before the term became popular and never asked for credit, she put her heart into everything she did.
At Ms. Goldner’s request, there will be no services.