You've probably heard by now that, after 110 years in business, DeRobertis in the East Village will be gone as of December 5. It wasn't the rent this time. The family decided, with great pain, to sell the building.
This one hurts like hell.
I'd like to say something more eloquent, but that's all I've got right now.
That and who took the antique coin from the floor?
For a million years--or 193--a half-dollar from 1821 sat in the very center of the cafe, embedded in the tiles, in the middle of a flower, in the middle of a star. Some said that a mobster put it there, maybe Lucky Luciano, but it was likely just the guy who put in the floor.
photo from a few months ago by Kyle Supley
Today there's just an empty space, an imprint of an eagle in the cement where the coin used to be. Soon, that's all we'll have of DeRobertis, a ghostly remnant of something wonderful and real, something connected to history, something with a story to tell.
As John DeRobertis described the place to Bedford & Bowery, "When people came in here, they knew the people working behind the counter. We felt a closeness. That’s what I’m going to miss the most. You go into any of these chain coffee shops, you’re just a person and they’re robots. Everybody has a job to do. You give the order to this person, this person makes it, this person gives it to you, that person cashes you out. Here, I think people felt at home."
What will move in next? God help us if it's a fucking Starbucks. Of course, as Annie DeRobertis told me back in 2007, that's what today's stunad East Villagers want.
She said: “People come in and tell me I don’t know how to make cappuccino. They tell me, 'Starbucks makes it this way.' I tell them, 'I’m here before Starbucks.'
They want flavors. I tell them, 'I got flavors. You want a flavor? I’ll
put it in.' Put it in? They look at me. Do
these people really think the coffee bean grows in flavors? Like it comes
in hazelnut and mint? These are people with college educations. But
they want Starbucks. So I tell them, very nicely I say, 'So go to Starbucks.'"
Eventually, that will be the only choice.