Home > ALL POSTS > Le Cirque’s famous owner Sirio Maccioni started as a waiter “crossing the pond” aboard the Home Lines SS ATLANTIC.

Le Cirque’s famous owner Sirio Maccioni started as a waiter “crossing the pond” aboard the Home Lines SS ATLANTIC.


Le Cirque’s famous owner Sirio Maccioni started as a waiter “crossing the pond” aboard the Home Lines SS ATLANTIC. After achieving success, he sailed trans-Atlantic years later as a first class passenger aboard the Italian Line’s SS GIULIO CESARE. In June 2004 Maccioni published his biography, Sirio: The Story of My Life and Le Cirque with restaurant critic Peter Elliot.

Sirio Maccioni (born 1932 in Montecatini Terme, Italy) is a restaurateur and author based in New York City. He is known for Le Cirque, his award-winning flagship French restaurant and other ventures in New York, Las Vegas, the Dominican Republic and Mexico City, which are run with his wife Egidiana “Egi” and sons Mario, Marco and Mauro. A restaurant in London is scheduled to open in 2009.

To order Maccioni’s biography click here for a link to Amazon.

To visit Le Cirque’s website – learn more about the restaurant or make a reservation – please click here.

In his biography, Maccioni tells his story to American co-author Peter Elliot, food critic for Bloomberg radio and winner of the James Beard award. Peter Elliot does a wondrous job piecing together Sirio’s autobiography along with interviews of Sirio’s friends, family, and New York notables and a sound history of each landscape visited in Sirio’s journey from Montecatini, Italy to New York City.

He is the ultimate American success – a small town boy who makes good.

His experiences working as a waiter aboard Home Lines S.S. Atlantic and S.S. Homeric are a highlight.

He signed on the S.S. Atlantic to work as a waiter with other young men in the mid-1950s. They had been pitched by Home Lines to work for the steamship company because of their experience. The multilingual crew were called “the chosen” because of their experiences as waiters.

American family in first class aboard the S.S. Homeric sailing from Europe to New York. Photo was taken in First Class dining room. Waiter could have been a contemporary of Maccioni at that time.

But Maccioni and his colleagues boarded the ship to have their passports taken by a monstrous purser and found themselves hired as waiters/cheap labor.

“The Chosen” S.S. Atlantic waiters, including Maccioni (second from left standing), visitng Chef Vasco Cecchi at the Presidentaila Palace of Fulgencio Battista, Cuba, 1955.

Home Lines was not a major trans-Atlantic company along the lines of Cunard, U.S. Lines, French, Holland-America or the Italian Lines.

The S.S. Atlantic would soon become the S.S. Queen Frederica. This is a youtube video from an Italian film with scenes of the ship Maccioni sailed on.

Home Lines did not build new ships but purchased former liners that had mainly operated before World War II.

The S.S. Homeric sailing into Havana, Cuba. 1950s.

They bought several Matson Line ships after WW 2 including the Malolo which eventually became the SS Atlantic. He made a number of trans-Atlantic crossings along with cruises to the Caribbean including Cuba and Haiti aboard the SS Atlantic – along with another converted Matson Liner SS Homeric.

Maccioni on a passage visitng the Panama Canal, 1955.

He recounts those trips and sailings. Visiting Havana and Port au Prince. With comments about the growing poverty in Cuba and reasons for the eventual revolution.

He also deals with the hard fact of serving aboard the SS Atlantic.

The waiters were accommodated in the depths of the stern, with the engine roaring and sleep impossible. It was very hard work in a ship crammed for space.

Home Lines, with the S.S. Atlantic, had taken a a luxury liner accommodating 600 plus passengers in two classes and turned it into a ship accommodating 1200 plus in three classes!

A Home Line menu cover featuring chef Mario Ratto – former cook to the Italian royal family. An example for Maccioni in launching a very successful career.

Mario Ratto was the chef and had been a cook to the Italian royal family. Maccioni recounts watching Ratto work in the ship’s galley, dealing with the provisions he had and making it work.

Maccioni describes Ratto as being very disciplined. That experience was the key most likely to Maccioni’s success. He knew you could make good food in big numbers – it was just a matter of organization.

For Maccioni, it wasn’t theory or an MBA, it was the practical experience that can’t be taught in the end.

And the SS Atlanta was one of his schools.

Except for the many Hollywood stars sailing aboard the Atlantic when she was the Malolo, Maccioni is probably the most famous person to sail on the SS Atlantic.

The next time he returned to Europe, he sailed aboard the Italian Line traveling first class. He wanted the experience and this, along with working aboard the Atlantic, obviously helped contribute to his great career.


In the 1920s and 1930s Matson reached a peak of expansion. With increasing passenger traffic to Hawaii, Matson Line introduced the Malolo in 1927. She was the fastest ship in the Pacific, cruising at 22 knots. Her success led to the construction of three sister ships: the Mariposa, Monterey and Lurline between 1930 and 1932. These were known as the great Matson liners and made the liner service from San Francisco to beautiful Hawaii, the South Pacific and Australia renowned.

The Malolo accommodated 457 First Class and 163 Cabin Class passengers in comfort and style. Although not a large ship, she was spacious. Public room in both classes were elegant and luxuriously furnished. She was one of the first liners with an indoor swimming pool and this soon became a very popular and much talked about feature of the ship. Accommodations were mostly outside and there were few inside cabins and the vast majority had private facilities.

In 1937 Matson Line decided to substantially rebuild and modernize the Malolo and rename her Matsonia. Her lifeboats were relocated and her older accommodations were greatly improved. After this major refit she returned painted in white livery and looked like a new ship. She continued to sail between San Francisco and Honolulu until 1941.

On the 21st November 1941, the Matsonia was requisitioned by the US Navy and served as a troopship. She was hurriedly transformed to carry up to 3000 troops and she was due to depart San Francisco on the 8th December bound for the Philippines.

However due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, this voyage was canceled and she was loaded up with munitions and 3,280 troops to sail from San Francisco to Honolulu in convoy with her newer sisters, Monterey and Lurline. For the duration of the Second World War the Matsonia carried troops around the Pacific and made a number of voyages to Australia. In 1946 she was decommissioned after carrying around 176,000 people including troops, war brides and civilians during her war service.

The Matsonia returned to Matson Line in April 1946 and after a refit she resumed her Hawaii service with a sailing from San Francisco on the 22nd May 1946. She continued on this service single handedly until April 1948 when she was retired from service by Matson Line, laid up at Alameda in California and put up for sale. Her role was then taken over by her newer sister, Lurline.

New York high society fancy dress ball aboard the S.S. Homeric dockside in New York Harbor – late 1950s. Most likely these Manhattan socialites would soon become Maccioni’s patrons in New York.

She was soon sold to Home Lines and renamed Atlantic. She was send to the Ansaldo shipyards in Genoa, Italy for refitting. After this refit she now carried 283 First Class, 224 Cabin Class and 735 Tourist Class passengers. Except for additional lifeboats and the Home Lines logo on her funnel she was little altered externally. The Atlantic sailed from Genoa on the 14th May 1949 on her maiden voyage to New York via Naples and Barcelona. She continued on this service until 1952 when she transferred to the Southampton to Canada service via Le Havre. In the winter months she sailed on cruises from New York to the Caribbean.

The S.S. Homeric in New York surrounded by winter ice.

In January 1955 the Atlantic was transferred to the National Hellenic American Line (a Home Lines subsidiary) and renamed Queen Frederica.

She was refitted to accommodate 132 First Class, 116 Cabin Class and 931 Tourist Class passengers. She then sailed from Piraeus on the 29th January 1955 bound for New York via Naples, Palermo and Halifax. For the most part the continued on this service apart from on the 15th December 1958 when she sailed from Naples bound for Australia with Italian migrants. Her destinations were Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Soon she returned to Europe via the same route and arrived in Piraeus.

In late 1960 she was refitted again and adapted to accommodate 174 First Class and 1,005 Tourist Class passengers. She then sailed on the Cuxhaven to Canada service until November 1965.

In November 1965 she was sold to Chandris Lines. She was repainted in Chandris livery with a white hull and blue and black topped funnel with a large white X. Still named Queen Frederica she sailed from Piraeus on the 10th December 1961 bound for Australia.

Once she returned to Greece then then was placed on the Piraeus to New York service with cruising in the winter. In October 1966 she made a round trip from Southampton to Australia and a number of cruises before returning to Europe.

She returned to Australia again in 1967 and made a few summer cruises before departing for Europe again in March 1968.

When she returned to Europe, she was chartered out to Sovereign Cruises to operate Mediterranean cruises. This charter ended in September 1971 and she was laid up on the River Dart in England from the 22nd September 1971.

S.S. GIULIO CESARE – Maccioni sailed aboard this Italian Line ship as a first class passenger “just to do it!”

But she was soon given a refit and chartered to Blue Seas Cruises for cruises out of Palma de Mallorca between April and November 1973.

However after this charter she again was laid up at Piraeus. Sadly 50 years after being delivered to Matson Line she was sold to Greek ship breakers in July 1977 and was towed off to the Eleusis breakers. In February 1978 she was gutted by fire and scrapping temporarily halted. Three years later her sad hulk could still be seen amongst the other ships being scrapped.

A sad end after a remarkable career for this fine example of American marine engineering showcasing the best of America.

Long may she be remembered.

Contribution from Ocean Liner Museum.

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