This is the fifth post of "The Union Street Project," in which I unearth the history of every building along the once bustling Brooklyn commercial strips of Union Street between Hicks and Van Brunt, and Columbia Street between Sackett and Carroll.
Most of the buildings along Union, between Hicks and Columbia, have held a variety of businesses over the past century or so. There are a couple exceptions. 138 Union is one. From 1927 to 2002 this was the home of a single enterprise: Latticini Barese Salumeria, a wonderful cheese shop with a history stretching back to the neighborhood's pushcart days. It was run by the Balzano family, who, as the name suggested, hailed from Bari, Italy. The shop stubbornly remained long after the BQE cut the block off from the rest of Brooklyn, and the Columbia Street sewer dig of the 1970s killed off the rest of business. The place only closed after old Joe Balzano suffered a few physical setbacks and his son, Joe. Jr., decided to throw in the towel. It closed in August 2002, eventually replaced by a real estate broker who is still there.
Inside, Lattcini Barese was a wonderful place, with very basic white shelving and white counter on three sides. (I wish I had taken pictures while I still could.) Joe Sr. got up every morning to make fresh mozzarella. They also made handmade sandwiches which had few equals, and a sausage salad that retains a grip on my memory. The shelves were largely empty, holding only some packages of pasta (by a company called Balzano, no relation) and cans of tomato sauce. There was a tile floor and, as I recall, ceiling fans. It was frozen in time.
The real estate office has retained elements of the salumeria's distinctive storefront. (See below.) Gone are the miniature green awning that hung over every window on the facade, advertising specialties like mozzarella and sausage. The business had held a stronger-than-usual grip on posterity due to a large painted advertisement that still adorns the top story of the building.
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