The founder of Upper East Side eatery Nello, Nello Balan, was laid to rest on Long Island on Wednesday. The legendary “baron of dining” was remembered at a service at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, which was attended by his friends and family. Balan was buried at Roslyn Cemetery in Greenvale. His funeral was attended by billionaire John Paulson, publicists Inna DeSilva and Norah Lawlor, and Zach Erdem, owner of Southampton’s 75 Main, among others.
According to a source, Balan’s exes, including his ex-wife Elbi Askin and former girlfriend Jasmine Oh, were absent from the service, which raised some eyebrows. Balan’s current girlfriend, Texas-born Italian princess Rita von Boncompagni Ludovisi, could not attend, but sent a representative in her place.
Balan’s daughter, Lucy, cried throughout the memorial, and told Page Six that her father’s last words to her were, “‘I love you Lucy. You are the boss. Never forget where you come from.’ He said it all my life, he loves me, my whole family, my sister, my brother, my other sister, my children.” Balan was known for his successful surgery to remove a brain tumor less than two years ago, but had been in recovery from a ski accident that had him “in and out of the hospital for about a month.” He died from a complication from a brain tumor. Hedge funder Paulson gave a speech calling Balan a “renaissance man.”
Nello, which opened in 1992, was known for attracting celebrities and bold-faced names like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Mick Jagger, Sting, Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Lopez, Uma Thurman, Paris Hilton, Ivanka Trump, Alex Rodriguez, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump and Melania, Selena Gomez, Charlie Rose, Bob Dylan, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, Kate Moss, Brad Pitt, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sharon Stone.
The End of an Era
Balan was forced out of the eatery in 2015 after falling out with co-owner Thomas Makkos, calling it a “marriage that didn’t work.” Makkos said that he and Balan still spoke, calling him a “magician of service.” Balan was also involved in a number of lawsuits involving his restaurant businesses, and in 2006 pled guilty to an attempted assault on ex-girlfriend Heather Payne. Balan’s daughter confirmed that one of his goals was to take back the Upper East Side restaurant.
Overall, the service for Nello Balan was attended by many of his friends and family, as well as some notable figures. Balan’s legacy as the “baron of dining” and the celebrity hotspot of Nello will not soon be forgotten.