The $52,000 lunch

Monday, Nov. 9
Posted 2 p.m. EDT

There's lunch, and then there's lunch. For those of us who think sundried pesto on a sandwich is exotic, toss that brown bag in the trash and imagine yourself at the truffle-and-wine-infused luncheon party hosted by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich at New York City's Nello's restaurant. Total cost for himself and some of his closest friends? $52,221.09.

Even though a spokesman denies the bill was that large, the blogs are abuzz with the news of such an extravagant return to 1980s-style excess.

But on the flip side, it could be an argument in defense of trickle-down economic theory. After all, the City of New York netted $3,251.89 in tax, and the restaurant waitstaff shared in a $12,328.20 tip. Abramovich reportedly added $5,000 to the $7,328.20 gratuity already on the bill.

The priciest items on the tab were the five bottles of wine and two magnums of Cristal, each costing $5,000. But there were also two orders for truffle carpaccio, at $100 each, and three orders of truffle taglioni totaling $585. Assorted pasta dishes, dessert and coffee rounded out the meal.

The 43-year-old Abramovich, who made his fortune buying and selling in various enterprises, is not one to hoard his riches. Just before Christmas he's due to take delivery on the world's largest yacht, the 557-foot Eclipse, (it will be one of five in his fleet). If the standard wisdom applies, it will require 10 percent of the purchase price to maintain and staff it, meaning he'll probably spend north of $120 million annually on just that one yacht. Not to mention his numerous worldwide real estate holdings and jets. Think of all those dollars pouring into the economy for upkeep, staff and taxes.

With a net worth last reported by Forbes at $8.5 billion, he still only ranks 51 on the magazine's annual ranking of the world's richest. So I say let him set an example for the rest of the billionaires, and spread the money around to folks who could really use it.

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