18 June 2007

Family Business, Family Strife

Studying New York history over the years, I've come to realize that wherever you find an old family business, you usually find an old family feud just behind it. The sisters who run the Montero bar and Long Island Restaurant near each other on Atlantic Avenue have bickered for years. The brothers who own Manganaro's Hero Boy and Manganaro's Grosseria Italiano, side by side on Ninth Avenue, didn't speak for decades. The Balducci family has feuded plenty. The owners of Patsy's pizzeria and Grimaldi's pizzeria, who came from Patsy's, fought over name rights for a while. It goes on and on and on.

I discovered another long-simmering battleground off Arthur Avenue in the Bronx this past weekend. The setting is Egidio's Pastry Shop on 187th Street, a place that has been there since 1912, founded by one Pasquale Egidio. The long tortured tale of its existence was written up in the New York Times a few years back, and though that tale is none too flattering of any of the participants, the article is framed and hanging in the bakery. It tells of heartbreaking marriages, a suffocating father, and an accusation of an altered will, leaving the pastry shop to a son rather than a devoted daughter who expected it.

Even the tale of the family that bought the place from the founding family is a soap opera. Paolo Palombo wanted to use the bakery as a springboard to enter local politics. He succeeded, but found a mistress along the way, and his wife, the former Carmela Lucciola, took out her vengeance by snatching the shop away from him. Paolo was later convicted of taking a bribe. He lost his political perch and now owns a string of bakeries throughout Brooklyn.

The Times piece says Paolo is sad that none of his stores is near Arthur Avenue. That appears to have changed. Just a block away from Egidio's is a shiny new cafe called Palombo, right on the corner of Arthur and 187th. It opened seven months ago. Paolo has returned, and just a stone's throw from his ex-wife. The saga continues.

Try the espresso (very dark), the cannoli and the banana eclairs. Much of the interior charm disappeared with a recent remodeling (even the tin ceiling is new). But the old sign hanging outside rocks.

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