Tom Margittai, Who Revitalized the Four Seasons, Dies at 90


In 1994 they passed the toque to their two junior partners, Mr. von Bidder and Mr. Niccolini, who continued to run the restaurant in the Seagram Building until their lease expired in 2016 and the building’s new owners replaced them. Three months ago, Mr. von Bidder and Mr. Niccolini opened a new Four Seasons at 42 East 49th Street.

Thomas George Margittai was born on April 8, 1928, in Sighet, Transylvania — its jurisdiction shifted over the years between Romania and Hungary — to Bela Margittai and Piroszca (Scheiner) Margittai. His father owned a lumber mill.

The family lived in Bucharest, Romania, until Tom was about 10, then moved to Budapest. In 1944, when the Germans invaded, the family seemed destined for extermination, but they escaped in late June on what became known as the Kastner Train, an exodus on 35 cattle cars that Adolf Eichmann of the SS had agreed to in exchange for gold, gems and cash.

The train was diverted by the German authorities to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where the refugees were held for several months before most of them were transported to Switzerland by December. The family emigrated to what would become Israel before Tom Margittai moved to New York.

There he would become banquet manager at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel. In 1956, Mr. Kovi, who was born in Hungary, was named his assistant.

After a hiatus at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, Mr. Margittai returned to New York in 1962 and became a vice president of Restaurant Associates; by then Mr. Kovi had been running several high-end establishments for the conglomerate. They became directors of the Four Seasons in 1968.

In 1972, Mr. Margittai was mulling an offer to run the Playboy Clubs, but the chef and cookbook author James Beard, a friend, suggested buying the Four Seasons instead. Restaurant Associates, which had overexpanded, demanded $230,000 and insisted that Mr. Margittai and Mr. Kovi also acquire the nearly defunct Forum of the Twelve Caesars, on West 48th Street.


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