Monday, June 17, 2024

Death in Greenwich Village: As Anti-Septic Hudson Yards Opens, 40 Year Old Spaghetto Trattoria Is Closed by New Landlords


I know, everyone is excited about Hudson Yards. It’s glass, steel, and chrome. It’s so ugly it’s mind blowing. A whole new futuristic neighborhood with no ties to the past has risen on Tenth Avenue and 30th St.

At the same time, there are yet more deaths of landmark spots in Greenwich Village. My favorite restaurant for over 40 years, Spaghetto Trattoria, on the corner of Carmine and Bleecker, is gone. The building that house it, 228 Bleecker, was apparently flipped again recently. It was sold for $18.7 million just a few years ago. Who knows what they got for it this time? The great blog Vanishing New York reported the restaurant had 15 years to go on the lease. That does not seem to have mattered.

So we go back to 1979. The corner restaurant was called Bleecker Luncheonette. It had a black slate front, and a criss cross metal fence that was pulled down most of  the time. Hours of operation were 12-2pm and 5-7pm. Period. It opened, it closed. There was no grace period. The windows faced Carmine Street. There was a lunch counter and about four tables. A little old Italian lady made the food, it was all fresh, and tasted like nothing else.

She pretty much had one waited. His name was Rene, he did everything. Within a couple of years, according to my memory and time, the little old lady died. The Luncheonette was bought by someone local, who put some money into the decor and expanded the place so it was now a proper restaurant with an outdoor cafe, checkered tablecloths, and a real bathroom. Rene was now the manager. It was a jolt. I remember one day in the 80s looking at red tiles Rene had found to match the old flooring. Everything would be authentic.

Mainly, the food did not change. Rene kept the recipes. And the prices never went up very much.

This is the spot in the movie where calendar pages flip by, from 1980 to 1990 to 2000 to 2010. Time stood still. I lured friends there who wanted to go to Da Silvano across Sixth Avenue, to see celebrities. The lambchops were $52. This was in 1999. Wait, I’d say, I’ll take you to my favorite place. The pesto sauce was so tangy you didn’t look for bold faced names. Maybe in 2012, I actually had a birthday party at Spaghetto. Like 50 people, all jammed in, loving the pasta and the sauces. Rene smiled like a Cheshire cat. Four decades had passed.

Today I must report the restaurant is shuttered. Most of Bleecker Street between Sixth and Seventh is unrecognizable now. The reason people came to the Village, to the “Little Italy” part of it is gone. I think of House of Oldies records remains, I don’t know why, on Carmine. There is one Italian pastry shop, Rocco’s that won’t last. Cent Anni, a fancier place, is long dead. Anything authentic has been sold to greed. At the corner across from Spaghetto there’s a chain gelato store– who cares? You can get it anywhere in the world.

Elsewhere in the nabe, the White Horse Tavern has been sold to people who will kill it, I’ll bet you now. It’s like when the Cedar Tavern was taken apart on University. The new owner said it would return, but he demolished the building. Where famous artists used to fight (recently depicted in “Mrs. Maisel”) there is now a nail salon. It looks like Cafe Loup may finally be gone, the taxman returned. There are gaping retail holes all over the village. The Cornelia Street Cafe, where writers read and singers sang, is a memory. The list goes on and on.

It’s Bill DeBlasio’s New York now. Many of our streets have been cut down to one lane, so cars compete on the pavement with everything and everyone. Most of the day, the traffic is terrible. We have no supermarkets, just a Citarella. Little by little almost all have closed. Apparently no one needs food, or paper towels. The city that never sleeps is closed by 10pm. “The kitchen closed at 10pm,” is what I hear now most of the time. Uh, we used to hang out here at 1am, I tell them. Even Il Cantinori shuts down early. Why wait for customers who are home, using Seamless and GrubHub to watch Netflix.

Congrats, we’ve moved to the suburbs. We can always meet at Starbucks.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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