Friday, March 29, 2013

Capucine's Restaurant

VANISHING

I don't know Capucine's Restaurant on 2nd Avenue and 19th Street, but I passed by last night and saw this sign in the window:



Thirty-three years in business, but now the rent is too high to afford. It's the same old story all over again. And what kind of place is this? The kind of place that keeps getting the boot in Bloomberg's New York.

The description from New York Magazine makes it sound like a place I'd like to visit, with its shopworn tuxedos and dolled-up seniors:

"So enamored was he of Capucine, the French film beauty, that Gino Bossio named his old-school Italian restaurant for her in 1982. When Bossio passed away in 2005, wife Daryl assumed the reins, taking courtly two-decade veteran waiter Henry Julevic as partner. Aside from those personnel changes, a new TV at the bar, and a few coats of paint, Capucine’s hasn’t changed much since it was founded. It’s the kind of continental place you might take your parents, with middle-of-the-road Northern Italian staples delivered by deferential servers in slightly shopworn tuxedos. Iceberg lettuce dominates salads, olives taste canned, and entrees such as chicken cacciatore and shrimp scampi lack any kick. But pastas arrive perfectly al dente, and meats are cooked to buttery tenderness. In any case, diners return here for comfort, not culinary wizardry. Dolled-up seniors from nearby Peter Cooper Village and Stuy Town fill up the room on weekends, along with neighborhood families marking birthdays and anniversaries."

That's not going to happen at the next 7-Eleven.

31 comments:

Ms. said...

The center collapses,the gyre narrows, and the falcon swoops the prey of the day away.

Ivan said...

The thing I don't get is that these greedhead landlords keep doing this, while so many of their properties (after kicking out the Mom & Pops) go belly up. All along Fifth Ave. and all over Greenwich Village (and elsewhere) are empty storefronts, abandoned by 7-11 and their ilk. The landlords got greedy, they pushed out the faithful, brought in the corporations, and when the corp. wasn't making enough dough, the corp. splits. The evidence that these tactics are not working long term is right there, but they keep ignoring it. Sigh...

Anonymous said...

Capucine's is so much more than a neighborhood restaurant. When you walk in, you are welcomed by "family", staff that know you, know your kids, know your friends. It's where you want to celebrate the important times of your life, the birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings. I am very sorry to see them close. I' d like to thank them for all the wonderful times we had there.

Anonymous said...

"makes it sound like a place I'd like to visit,"

Classic. Mourning for places that one does not visit when they become no longer economically viable.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this will keep happening to these old restaurants. They can't survive skyrocketing rents on just a weekend crowd or special occasions. And they especially can't survive catering to a dying demographic.

EV Grieve said...

Aww. Sorry to see this. We ate here a few times. That NY Magazine description is quite accurate. Last time I was here, we sat next to two very well-behaved children and their doting grandparents who were regulars at Capucine's. It had that neighborhood feel that I always appreciate.

Can't wait to see how Gabe Stulman makes it faboo.

Anonymous said...

How sad. If Michael Bloomberg could describe his perfect New York, there would be a bank on every corner, a 711 on every block, and in between only chain restaurants with bike racks in front and no parking in the street. We would be the most generic of cities, no charm and only for the poor (cheap restaurants) and the rich who own them.

Jeremiah Moss said...

that's right Anon 10:02. let's not give a shit about anything unless it's personally relevant to us. let's not have any feeling about places that matter to other people or to the fabric of the city at large.

that's what this thoughtless argument really means, and i'm tired of hearing it. it's boring.

Anonymous said...

JVNY does an excellent job of reporting the obituaries of various businesses that gave NYC its DNA. What has replaced these businesses? Florent? Chez Brigite? Etc. How long do these replacements stay in business?

DrBOP said...

I'm convinced that there is an even deeper "hidden" reason for this cycle of stupidity/ neighborhood-killing by landlords ALL OVER NORTH AMERICA. Our city administrators everywhere have instituted bylaws/tax breaks that simply serve the economic bottom line of multi-unit owners.

Empty Store =
Reduced Tax Classification +
Extra Amended Tax Breaks +
Reduced Hydro/Services Bills (A lesser rate beyond none being used temporarily) +
Amended Insurance Reductions =
Semi-Attractive Standard Operating Procedure

OF COURSE, landlords make more money if the store is occupied, but as long as there exists this type of "safety net" for them, it means they can "carry" the property on their books with ABSOLUTELT NO COST to their bottom line when it is unoccupied.....and in some mega-multi-unit owners, a max-plus to their bottom line.
It's CREATIVE ACCOUNTING GONE WILD!!!

Remove this crap and MAYBE things might be different.


PS = NOT just blowin' smoke here.....in my town, there was three waves of legislation as described above (1956, 1964, 1978).....but town councillors don't want to touch it for "fear" of the town being branded "unfair" to landlords/businessMEN/corporations. Kinda sounds like right outta Bloombucks mouth, EH?

BabyDave said...

Damn.
I enjoyed many an evening there with family. Even was thinking about going there for Easter dinner, for old times' sake.
I can hope that it relocates locally, but if the rent got out of hand at that location -- it's kind of nowhere, which in a way added to its appeal -- then I can't imagine where.
Damn.

Anonymous said...

NY Mag nailed it. Capucine's was a place where the family gathered to meet up with the folks who lived in ST/PCV. A genteel, neighborhood restaurant. But so much of that neighborhood has changed. There are few touchstones that survive.

ELIZABETH CHEVALIER said...

I am SO sad. It's like a family member passing. I've spent many a wonderful meal in this restaurant where they truly made me feel like family. I celebrated birthdays, promotions, baby showers here, even had family come from Brooklyn to try this restaurant and they all agreed, the food was always delicious. I came to know Capucine's while working at the Police Academy, just a block away. Even though I transferred to Brooklyn, I'd go into "the City" to meet up with my friend Susan and we'd always choose to go to Capucine's. They knew to give us a table in the corner because of our tendency to laugh alot while catching up with one another. When I first started to frequent Capucine's, Felipe was an owner. We were all saddened by his untimely death. Then, the word was that Harry and Benny were taking over! YIPPEE! The quality of the food and service had not dwindled one bit over all these years. Memories of Boris preparing sabignon table side always brings a smile to my face. So, so sad. Buon Fortuna to Harry and Benny and Boris and the staff that made Capucine's one of my all-time favorite places to go. I am going to miss them terribly! :(

Pat said...

I have walked by that restaurant countless times and they always had customers in there. That is what bothers me the most. If a restaurant is not doing business you sort of expect it, that they would shutter, but when they have customers it just seems like a damn shame. Similar fate for Bao Noodles on 2nd Avenue between 22nd - 23rd Streets and Inotecca on the corner of 24th Street & 2nd Avenue. Those spaces are still empty, unrented, and when the restaurants were there they were packed every time I saw them. And they were full of young people too, so it doesn't matter if it is a restaurant catering to an older demographic or not, the effin landlord will raise the rent no matter what.

Pat said...

Oops, Inotecca was on the corner of 24th Street & 3rd Avenue.

Anonymous said...

I was a Police Officer assigned to the Police Academy for some 25 years. During that time, whenever there was something to celebrate it was at Capucine. Christmas lunches were there. All my promotion luncheons were there. Going to see a play started with dinner there. Christmas time in the city ended with dinner there. Whenever I friend came to visit, from out of state, Capucine's was where we went. More importantly, it was the place I first held hands with my wife. Our first kiss was in front of the restaurant; the first time I met my wife's family was there. I have nothing but fond memories of the place and the staff, which did not change in 20 years. I am moving to North Carolina in a few months and I was hoping to get to Capucine's one more time before I left. Guess that's not going to happen. Rest in peace old friend. To me it is only fitting that I left the Police Department only a short time before you closed your doors.

Anonymous said...

As usual, in his inimitable style, Dr Bop is spot-on. This whole pheomenon of longtime businesses being kicked out to be replaced with empty storefronts (until a major player can be convinced to move in) is nothing but gaming the tax code. It's nothing but a scam and we the regular residents are the suckers.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the rent being too damn high for the owners, the new inhabitants of ST/PCV are only there 1-2 yrs. They're boarding or dorming. There is no sense of family or community to them. They won't be patronizing places like this. Theyre just here to consume the next it thing. They need to be in trendy or gastropub joints, to make themselves feel important or lofty, like those Ko joints; they're momofukers.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post by DrBop, haven't seen this information anywhere else. I wonder if Jeremiah can write an investigative piece regarding how this relates to the city.

Anonymous said...

I really do lament it when old classics bite the dust, but are we really at the point where nondescript restaurants from the 1980's need to be mourned?

The idea that businesses deserve rent control is kind of foolish, But absent such, this is all just navel gazing.

Anonymous said...

This one hurt. Lesson learned, treasure these old stalwart restaurants before they vanish! They used to make a booster seat out of phone books and cloth napkins when our son was a tot; and we celebrated many a happy occasion here. We will miss you Capucine's and hope that this is just an April Fool's trick.

Anonymous said...

Very sad to hear they closed. My family and I were frequent visitors over the years. We had heard that things were getting a little dicey a few years back as far as them staying open. We always enjoyed our times there and the wait staff treated us quite well. I definitely regret not getting to go there one last time. Good luck to all the long time employees that made the place special. Can't wait to see the next drug store or bank that opens in it's place. NYC is getting broken apart one storefront at a time.

laura said...

why dont the landlords give the restaurant a year to year lease. if they get a high end tenent then they can give notice, & the restaurant can close. then there is the best of both worlds. btw, i always dined in places like that even when i was school age. "J" keep on eye out on this one. would love to know what takes its place.

Richard Laban said...

Really shocked to hear it closed. It was my favorite restaurant. So many memories. I was just there two weeks ago this night for my birthday dinner. Boris, the head waiter, also had his birthday the same day. Felt like I was visiting family whenever I went there. We've been going there since the mid-80's. My family will miss Boris, Benny and Henry. I feel like there has been a death in the family. Wish I had some way to contact the staff. Boris has my phone number. If he sees this post, please call, buddy.

Anonymous said...

For all of you who are so eager to blame greedy landlords for the demise of this business, please note that Capucine's owners did not say that the rent had increased.

Although Capucine's seemed to do well on the weekends, their weekday attendance was terrible. They never had more that 4-6 people for lunch and, if they had 8-10 for dinner, it was a lot. I don't know how they were able to pay the staff let alone the rent.

Perhaps being closed down by the Board of Health hastened their demise although they managed to get back to an "A" rating afterward.

What I found noteworthy was that there was never a proper food delivery truck in front of Capucines. Instead, the owner would show up in his little silver car with the day's food supply in his unrefrigerated trunk...prepared food, raw meat, whole fish. Obviously, this was a cost cutting measure but totally illegal not to mention unsafe.

In today's economy, you have to be the best of the best and/or just plain lucky to survive. I guess it was just time.

Anonymous said...

That location was a drug store until the late 1960's and then in succession; a jeans store (People Pants), a plant store and a pizza place. One day it closed and after construction the pizza guys opened their Italian restaurant Capucine's. Hope it doesn't become a 7 Eleven.

b.gazou said...

Gone as well, another Italian favorite of mine, Orchidia, which also could not absorb the rent hike & also on 2nd Ave. Now it's a Starbucks.

Aly Gibson said...

I'll just echo what everyone else said -- I'm heartbroken to hear this closed. My parents had all of their meals at Capucines when they were pregnant with me and attended lamaze classes around the corner at Beth Israel. It then became tradition to go to Capucines for every family birthday.

Everything about Capucines was perfect from the unchanged ambiance and menu to loyal staff. My sister and I looked forward to the asparagus appetizer, their impeccable marinara, and of course the dessert cart.

I wish they would consider re-opening in another location. I hope they read here how they touched so many people!

JB said...

Back in June 1992, my new boyfriend and I had our first dinner date at Capucine's. It was down the block from his apartment on E. 19th Street. As if the ecstasy of dining with someone I was already deeply in love with wasn't enough, I remember the food and the experience being excellent. My (now ex-)BF lived on 19th for many years after, and whether visiting him after we evolved into friends or just passing through Gramercy, I was always reminded of how I should go back again. Regretably and shamefully, I never did. But that one night at Capucine's will always live on in my memory. I appreciate the opportunity to grieve with the rest of you.

Pat said...

Capucine's is being replaced by Mezcla, Latin food & drink, owned by the one who has Il Posto pizza across 2nd Avenue. Re: my comment here March 29, 2013, where Inotecca was on the corner of 24th Street & 3rd Avenue is still vacant. What's up with that? I cannot believe it has been a year.

Anonymous said...


Sorry to hear about Capucine's..
I've known Gino since the late 60's..My brother and Gino were good friends..When Gino separated with his first wife,he stayed with my brother for a few months until he sorted himself out..That was back in the early to mid 70's..We had my brother's bachelor party at Gino's place,then on 3rd ave and the mid 30's when it was called "The Hill".My brother passed away in 2002 and the Gino in 05..They are really missed...God Bless them..
Regards,Lenny Lombardo(now in Jupiter,Fl)