Norbert Goldner, the chef and owner of the Palm Beach, Fla., food-and-wine landmark Café l’Europe, died Jan. 14. He was 77. The restaurant is considered a pillar of the city and has held Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence since 1991.
Born in Berlin in 1940, Goldner began his restaurant career in Europe before moving to the United States and studying hospitality at Cornell University. He became manager of the Sign of the Dove restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side in the mid-1960s. In 1972, he opened his first restaurant, Café l’Europe, in Sarasota, Fla., with then-business partner Titus Letschert.
Eight years later, Goldner opened a second location in Palm Beach, which he co-owned with his wife, Lidia, who worked as general manager. The restaurant quickly became a local fine-dining institution, earning critical acclaim and drawing lines out the door.
While Café l’Europe’s waiters no longer dress in black tie, the restaurant has maintained its upscale atmosphere, French-influenced cuisine and signature Champagne and caviar bar. The wine program, specializing in California, Bordeaux and Burgundy, offers nearly 900 selections.
Chef Goldner was known for his attention to detail, culinary skills and devotion to longtime customers. He earned multiple industry awards. He is survived by his wife, Lidia.
Celebrating the restaurant’s 35th anniversary in 2015, Norbert told a local newspaper, "We wanted to build a restaurant that was different from what we saw here. When you’re younger, you take chances; and if you believe in what you’re doing, you give it your all. I have never felt like this was a job. It’s my life."