The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World

Windows on the World, the Twin Towers and the Restoration of New York

Publisher Abrams Books, 2019

On the streets of Manhattan, you see it around you; the people who move briskly with purpose and the ones who can barely take a step; it is a city of exploding manholes, miles of scaffolding and cracks in the sidewalk but also a place where fresh cement is poured every day, new neighbors are always moving in and posh restaurants appear overnight.

And anyone who walks down Broadway and looks up to see the current World Trade Center towering over New York City is instantly reminded of what once was. On 9/11, we lost a sense of invincibility but not our unrelenting drive to move forward, progress, innovate, to dazzle and be dazzled; that human hunger for more.

This book will put that all on the page through the telling of the 25-year life of Windows On The World, from its inception to its destruction, its architects, busboys, chefs and Joe Baum, a man who had the chutzpah to never look down and to thrive during a nadir of New York City’s worst days. He dreamed up a restaurant that was nothing less than a Versailles in the Sky. The story of Windows On The World is one of nightly near-disasters and soaring so close to the sun.

“Much more than a history of a restaurant spectacular for its views, Roston has woven together a riveting history of New York City since its near collapse in the 1970s and intriguing stories about the restaurant business. The terrible tragedy of 9/11 looms, but there is also a heartening theme of how even the worst architectural excrescence can be transformed by people and imagination. The World Trade Center was cold and ugly from its inception, but its restaurant was magical.” — Paul Freedman, author of Ten Restaurants That Changed America

“This book, as bold and opinionated as a true New Yorker, offers a well-documented account of what it takes to create and manage the highest kitchen in the world. Its author is not afraid to call a coq-au-vin a coq-au-vin and does not suffer from vertigo. Bravo, the result has great balance, despite the strong winds of adversity found at such altitude!” — Philippe Petit, High Wire Artist

“New Yorkers have seen many fine restaurants come and go, but losing Windows on the World to the terrorism that came to NYC on Sept 11, 2001 left a void in the city’s dining experiences that will go unfilled. The restaurant was as iconic in its own right as the Twin Towers. Thankfully, Tom Roston documents this unforgettable restaurant in a book worthy of that once magical New York destination.” — David N. Dinkins, 106th Mayor, City of New York

With exhaustive research and crystalline writing, Tom Roston unspools the glamorous story of a culinary temple in the sky, of cooks and busboys proud to work amidst clouds, and of an era that today seems romantic and innocent. The book frequently makes the heart swell, but never more than in its account of an undocumented immigrant who rose from stock boy to manager, and whose story (the breathtaking end I’ll leave your heart to discover) is America’s story. Roston’s book is a riveting account, not only of a one-of-a-kind dining room, but of the evolution of New York City’s restaurant business itself, a concentration of talent, industry and imagination forever the envy of the globe. — Ted Allen, host of Chopped, Food Network

The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World