Monday, March 23, 2015

Caffe Dante


Last month I broke the upsetting news that Caffe Dante would be closing after a century in business. Management vehemently denied the information, saying, "Whoever started this rumor is a lunatic."

But this morning I received a confirmation from my original tipster: "Caffe dante closed. It has new owners. Australians... I guess that's that."

photo via Gothamist

Gothamist got down there and came back with photographic evidence of the closure.

Reader Daniel Bellino Zwicke writes with emotion about the final hours on his blog, Greenwich Village Italian:

"It’s 11:55 PM Sunday March 22, 2015 … I just left Caffe Dante for the last time under the ownership of Mr. Mario Flotta .. I had to hold back a few tears saying goodbye to Mario and his two sons."

He adds: "Mario sold the place to Victoria Coffee of Australia. He told me, it’s still going to be a caffe, and it’s still going to be called Caffe Dante."

I assume that's Vittoria Food & Beverage, begun in Australia in 1958. Well, they're old and they're Italian, but they're not New York. Worse, they provide what they call One Stop Shop: "for anyone looking to create an authentic Italian image for their cafe, restaurant or help you create an authentic Italian feel for your outlet."

Dante didn't have an "image" or a "feel," it was the real thing. And that's vanishing more and more every day. #SaveNYC.

*UPDATE: According to DNAInfo, the place is being taken over by an upscale "small plates" company, not Vittoria Food & Beverage, and it will be "modeled after a classic European-inspired neighborhood eatery." Again "modeled" and "inspired." Not real in any way.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand why after you first broke this news, Mario did that interview saying it wasn't true. He acted like it was crazy talk. Why would he do that? He cost so many of us, especially former regulars who don't live nearby but would have made a special trip in, the chance to visit the place one last time. It's a damn shame.

Anonymous said...

Yet another nail in the coffin. Between this and Ess-a-Bagel it's clear. NYC is dead. Long live The Mall.

L.A. Shane said...

Because you don't confirm a deal until it's closed. ^

2:20 p.m. said...

Australians are the new Italians (I suppose)

Anonymous said...

So here's the $1m #SaveNYC question: should Mr. Mario Flotta by subject to extra taxation as a result of his direct actions in shuttering a small business?

Or, if a business owner should for some reason be exempt when they choose to sell their business for a (presumably) hypergentro profit, where do you draw the line?

The owner of a property who is leasing a storefront to a business and legal sells said property - are they exempt too?

If they are not, why not, and how are the two entities (owner & operator vs. owner of leased space) distinguished?

Becuase I will tell you exactly what will happen: if Owner/Operators such as Mr. Mario Flotta are exempt from penalty, then every single commercial lease will be rewritten to make the landlord the defacto operator under law; spaces will become even more expensive; and the little guy will be even more powerless b/c they'll need an additional layer of lawyers to deal with the new regulations.

You know what scares away big box? Lack of regulations. Lack of city & state subsidies. Small lot sizes and unruly sidewalks.

I rooting for the #SaveNYC effort, but my feeling is that any regulatory changes to preserve NYC small businesses would be much better aimed towards facilitating these "hostile to big box" conditions than adding yet another layer of bureaucracy that will, ultimately, make this place even more fertile for the extremely rich, and even less welcoming to small business.

Anonymous said...

Something along these lines...

From The New York Times:

City Council Changes Zoning to Limit Sprawl of Big Banks on Upper West Side

The new rules limit the widths of new street-level storefronts on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues to 40 feet, and 25 feet for banks.

Giovanni said...

And here come the Australians again trying to sell New Yorkers their flat whites and meat pies. Thank you Austrailia but we already have cappuccinos and cortados, and unless you're Jamaican you don't eat that many meat pies. After Pie Face closed down all their shops you'd think they would have gotten the hint.

Our only hope is they keep the decor intact and don't just double the prices, but pretty soon all of the old time places will be gone. So go visit your favorite places now before it's too late. Don't leave it up to a lying store owner telling you that they are not closing down, since sooner or later they are all closing down. #SaveNYC

Scout said...

In the past decade, I found that the qulaity of Dante's food and drink had decreased significantly; combined with the fact that there's no reason for a New Yorker to go to that shiny, unreal part of the West Village anymore meant I had forgotten about the Dante long ago.

But I'll always remember how great it was in the 70s and early 80s, before that stretch of town became unbearably suburban.

Dave - everyehere said...

I'm assuming from the tone of the article that Mr. Flotta sold the business and will take his money and go do something else. Assuming he was happy with the price he got (again an assumption) is this really a #SaveNYC issue? At some point in everyone's career, it's time to move on and this may be that time for Caffe Dante.

Anonymous said...

Scout, the west village is still the most beautiful neigborhood in nyc hands down. And will always remain so. The jazz scene is thriving, as is the gay community many of the old restaraunts and music clubs remain as well as a large , vocal and passionate group of oldtime renters and owners who are hellbent on saving the village

To deny yourself the substantial charms of the west village based on some changes is foolish.

Those changes are happening at a far more fast rate throughout the rest of the city.

Scout said...

Anonymous, all due respect, but to those of us who have been here since the 70s or earlier, the West Village has become (mostly) a high-priced boutique/bistro-oriented playground for the upper middle classes. The unique, earthy, eccentric, and affordable quality it once had is gone.

And if anyone is around who knew it in the 30s, they would report having decried the Village in the 70s - that's the thing. Jeremiah here often bemoans the demise of businesses that started in the 80s or 90s (like the awful Kim's video chain), businesses that, to many of us, were already the beginning of the problem.

It's all a question of perspective - how long one has been here, and what we've all seen at different points in history.

WesternHoustonNoMore said...

Anonymous -- Yeah, it's really "beautiful" these days in the West Village with a Starbucks or another chain store on every block and Marc Jacobs and his ilk chewing a cupcake-laden path down the middle. A hell-hole of rich hipster kiddies dabbling in the arts or attending NYU while "Daddy" buys them an apartment for half a mil or so in what used to be middle class, affordable housing. Unless "Daddy" is a CPA or lawyer or bankster, no real artist, actor, musician, or dancer can even hope to live in The Village these days; most can't even afford to buy a meal there. The few jazz clubs that are left are waiting for the hammer to drop when their lease comes up and rent gets doubled. As for the gay scene and community involvement you claim is there, tell the oldtime locals how it's "thriving" with the loss of affordable neighborhood eating spots like Manatus last year. It's probably only a matter of time before the West 4th Street Diner and Waverly Restaurant go too. The West Village is GONE. Done. Over. Kaput.

Anonymous said...

How could you honestly have anything against Kim's Scout?
Especially Mondo-Kim's......that place was amazing.

Anonymous said...

I'm with ya Scout. Not much sympathy for the places that started in the 80's, since they are the beginning of the reason Soho lost it's artist-industrial core and became faux and the West Village became a magnet for movie stars.

On the other hand, at this point, even losing a place that's guilty of being part of the original demise of the place—as long as it's not a franchise or a box store—but rather a small business with a single, local owner, makes it still NY in character and I do lament them.

Anonymous said...

Aahhh scout andwesternhoustonnomore I have been in the west village for 30 years and have been hanging out here since the late 70s. I am a devotee of this site and I find the loss of our citys treasures heartbreaking and believe something needs to be done.

Im in the heart of greenwich village and have my finger squarely on the pulse. Its tragic what is happening but I decided long ago to make sure that rather then lament our losses to enjoy what remains. To appreciate the landmarked beauty of the architecture, to ingratiate myself to the many locals and old timers that remain and to patronize the businesss that are beloved to me.

As mentioned not only is the jazz scene thriving but new places are opening and I dont see that endinganytime soon. The old guard gay scene is still alive, many businesss with longterm leases remain and hopefully by the time they come up this hypergentrification may ease.

And yes manatus and other low cost community based diners like manatus and joe jr have closed but many remain as well as many low cost options.

Tons of funky places remain in the south village due to the student body. From ethiopian to mamouns flalafel, to cafe reggio. To low cost oldtimers like montes and joes and johns pizza.

Even some newcomers are community based and affordable from taim falafel to bleecker st pizza and on and on.

Thrift shops continue to open and we even got a goodwill store on 8th street and a buddys discount store on 6th ave.

As well as many higher end restaraunts and retail store that have their place as well. Had to buy a baby gift and went into the most adorable store on christopher with the most creative and unique gifts with a lovely staff. A true mom and pop. Just opened.

I make decisions on a case by case basis as to which ones I patronize based on attitude, clientele and statements as to their missions in the community.

But id be a fool to summarily dismiss the businesss simply because they are new to the community.

The fact is the city and the village has always had an element of wealth. And qlthough solidly middle class ive never been threatened or intimidated by money.the beauty of new york was that we all lived in harmony.

I completely understand that is changing and im often appalled at the blatant displays of wealth and enfitlement from a much less discreet generation but for now this is the direction the city is going and rather then be left behind moping and whining about what once was I am doing my best to enjoy what remains, expkore some of the new and hold out some hope for at the very least a slowdown of the onslaught and hopefull an outright corection one day.

But I am also aware this could be the end of the line and im going to make sure I enjoy my time here.

You should come to the village monday through friday during the day. Just like the old days in many ways. Old timers talking on the stoops, quiet and serene.

Id much rather live in a neighborhood as historically important and physically beautiful and protected as the village that always had an element of wealth and a bit gentrified then be in the crosshairs of the building boom in unprotected brooklyn.

The village may not be what it used to be but as I said it is hands down the most beautiful and most important neighborhood in nyc.

Scout said...

That materialistic consumer-oriented Kim's took over the St. Marks Baths, Anonymous - that was unforgivable (I know that Koch closed the baths, but it should have been left untouched until cooler minds prevailed and realized the good of bath houses).

Scout said...

WesternHoustonNoMore - you said it! The West Village has become a glossy hot bed of artificiality and privilege.

Of course, the glossy artificial privileged folks don't see anything wrong with that.

But me - I'm the kind that preferred the age of hookers on Times Square to the age of Disney on Times Square.

Anonymous said...

We seen it coming a decade ago.

The physical city was never ours, we just build and occupy and run it for "them".

As long as we are here to tell the history the city will never die.

Energy can never be destroyed.

Sometimes I stand in front of Nikola Tesla's old lab on Houston, it was my favorite place to go inside while it was still standing.

Thank You Jeremiah


Joey_Blau said...

If they paint over that nasty graphitti it will be a net gain..... did Dante care so little for the community?

Anonymous said...

One of the old-timers who has been going there several times a week for years told me that Mario wanted to keep the business going and in the family but there wasn't interested in that beyond him. It's too bad. It sounds like he fought the good fight for as long as he could. He loved that place, but at a certain point an elderly person is going to face challenges in running a business as intense as a restaurant. I hope he can enjoy his retirement, but that will probably be hard because it looks like he loved to work and be a part of the village community.