18 September 2007

Mourning Morrone Bakery

Things must be getting awfully lonely for Patsy's up in East Harlem.

Patsy's is one of the last vestiges of the Italian enclave that once dominated East Harmlem. One of its few compatriots was Morrone Bakery on E. 116th Street. Now, the New York Times reports that the bakery closed for good on Aug. 19.

I only discovered Morrone last spring, while walking to Patsy's. I remember thinking, "How can that place possibly survive?" Sadly, my thoughts were prophetic. The store has been there since 1958, when Rosa and Gabriele Morrone opened their doors. Gabriele died in 2000. The bakery closed for a few months in 2000-01 for renovations, reopening in February 2001 with a new oven.

Anthony Morrone, one of Mrs. Morrone’s seven children, took over as baker. But, wrote the Times, "for the past year, Mr. Morrone, 46, has been suffering from a herniated disc in his back, which he said has made it impossible for him to continue to meet the demands of a trade that required him to bake from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. seven days a week."

So, that's it. No more old-school Italian bread in East Harlem.

A note on their website reads:

For over 50 years, the Morrone family has been providing you with the finest breads baked the old world way, all natural and of course without preservatives.

Along the way, our customers became our friends. Our neighborhood wasn’t just a place to do business in, it was our home. Not a day goes by, when someone doesn’t stop in to say, “Hi Rosa” and just shoot the breeze.

While, our neighborhood will still be our home, it is with great regret, that we must now say goodbye to our customers and friends, as we close our bakery.

We wish to thank you, our friends and customers for your support and loyalty all these years.


The Morrone Family

The site also offers patrons the chance to leave a message. One AnnMarie Mallozzi wrote this:

Thanks for the cherry-topped cookies that you passed to me with a smile whenever I visited your store as a little girl, I will miss the absolute delight of biting into a piping hot star bread and dipping a fresh friselle into my chicken soup.

Great. Now, I'm hungry.


Blissville said...

Oh, oh, oh, how could I have just discovered your blog now, after all has closed? I live in a corner of Queens on the brink of change, a hotel now peeks into the skyscape that was once the view from my bedroom window. So I am grateful for your site, and will start patronizing more the threatened venues. Please keep writing.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks, Blissville. Glad to have another like-minded reader. And I will keep writing.

Jamie said...

Alas, this seemed like a matter of time. I used to go to Morrone's every now and then for their superlative breadsticks -- wonderfully crisp, charmingly irregular in shape and coated with an amazingly copious amount of sesame seeds. Sweet people too.

As for Patsy's on E. 117th & First, my last visit there in July did not bode well. During sporadic visits over the past several years it's been irritatingly inconsistent -- sometimes sublime, other times too wet and droopy despite the trademark charred and blistered crust, but with its potential still evident given the excellent sauce and quality cheese.

In July it was borderline inedible. Instead of a judicious topping of good mozzarella it was gooped with that horrible super-salty, plasticky and tasteless industrial "pizza cheese" I can't stand, and the bottom of the crust was badly burned to a very unpleasant pitch-black cinder.

Depressing, given that this Patsy's has been in operation since 1933, still has that amazing original coal oven, and was until fairly recently still *capable* of pretty transcendent pizza.

Hopefully they will get their act together, and avoid the fate of Andy's Colonial, a longtime E. Harlem Italian stalwart that bit the dust in 2003, or Rex Ice, the achingly old-time Italian ice place that used to open summers only across the street from Patsy's, with a character of a schoolteacher dispensing such ancient flavors as "lily" (I think almond flavored) with a ready smile and plenty of personality.