Everyone in Nassau County knows Eisenhower Park, but how much do they know about Carltun on the Park, the luxury five-star restaurant hidden deep inside the 1,000 acres of Eisenhower Park?
Carltun on the Park was first designed by Robert Moses back in 1955 following the Korean War when the world was worrying about a nuclear bomb, so this building was designed to withstand big bombs and has 12-inch thick concrete walls. However, the building does not look at all like the concrete ribbon bunker called the Garden City Endo Building designed in the Brutalist tradition by Paul Rudolph.
Carltun on the Park has the look of a Versailles palace with its gardens and fountains and towering trees all about. To have lunch or dinner at Carltun on the Park you drive into Eisenhower Park and pull into the parking for the golf courses and, if you look to the right, you will see this opulent restaurant with its slate roof and patios overlooking the golf course.
We dined in the Palm Court and as I entered the palm-filled room, the first thing I noticed were the ceiling murals of flying monkeys done in blues, pinks and brown. Of course, these monkeys were not the sinister looking ones from “The Wizard of Oz” but instead had the whimsy and charm of a Beatrice Potter illustration. I’m not sure what artist painted these flying monkeys, but it made this room into a magical place to sit, comparable to the giant James Rosenquist fish and flower paintings in the Four Seasons Restaurant in Manhattan.
We were seated by Jose, the maître d’ and had a nice view of the golf courses right outside our window. We munched on Capetola Chopped Salad named after Anthony Capetola, who has owned this restaurant for the last 25 years. For entrees we shared Rib Eye Steak and Wild Mushroom Risotto and Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert. We spent over two hours at our table, but the ambience seems to make the time fly by and it reminded me of the flow of a meal we once had at the Cibrio Restaurant in Florence. Leave it to the Italians to instill “la dolce far niente,” or the sweetness of doing nothing, into their establishments.
Towards the end of our meal we chatted with Jose and he remarked that the flying monkey murals were inspired by a trip Anthony Capetola took to Africa where he noticed flying monkeys painted on the walls of a restaurant. He was so impressed with the look that he brought it back with him to his restaurant in Eisenhower Park. But make no mistake about it, whether Anthony actually did see these flying monkeys in a restaurant in Africa or not, their existence comes from the book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” written by Frank Baum in 1900 and made into the world’s most loved and most watched film “The Wizard of Oz’ made in 1939.
There are many iconic images that come from that film, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the poppy fields, Toto, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow. I saw this film when I was a child and still recall the fearful nightmares I had about those flying monkeys.
When I researched the term “flying monkeys,” I found that this term is now used in popular culture to describe anyone who does the bidding of a narcissistic leader to damage or abuse the name of someone else. Often middle-management is referred to as “flying monkeys” since they do the bidding of their narcissistic bosses.
Jose asked me why as a young child would I be so disturbed by those flying monkeys. I don’t have the answer to that one, but maybe it’s because I feared I might one day grow up and be captured by some Wicked Witch of the East, West, North or South and be asked to do her bidding like those hapless monkeys with their silly jackets and odd-looking bell hop caps.
Up until now all has remained safe for me. I have managed to escape from the clutches of any and all wicked witches and still have the luxury of freedom, health and independence. Free enough to go and enjoy a wonderful meal at Carltun on the Park with the woman I love and she is no wicked witch at all. So get yourself down to Carltun on the Park and take a look up at the ceiling and enjoy all those flying monkeys as well as the food.