15 July 2010

Greenwich Village Classic Fedora to Close

The deaths of giants will not let me rest. Last week, I felt compelled to report on the demise of 107-year-old Carmine's. This week, it's Fedora, the ineffable living museum of mid-century Village life.

This is not surprising. Not because fancy restaurateurs have been circling the place like vultures for months. But because proprietress Fedora Donato is 90 years old and it's always been clear she had no successor to take over. The lucky inheritor of the cozy basement space—so redolent of memories of cheap, bohemian, Italian feasts of the post-War period—is Gabe Stulman of Joseph Leonard. (We can thank our lucky stars it wasn't Graydon Carter, I suppose.) He has signed the lease, and Fedora will serve her last lasagna on July 25. Then the place will under a renovation, no doubt scrubbing from the walls every bit of raffish charm. 

Stulman says he means to retain many of the interior's design aspects and the name of the place. And, like McNally's conversion of the Minetta Tavern, the result may be very nice indeed, even if Stulman intends it to be a "casual elegant supper club." (Uh! Was Fedora every any of those things, besides casual?) But it won't be Fedora. How could it? Fedora won't be there. And the lady was always the heart of the eatery. 

But I guess we can be thankful the old bar will remain. And maybe the telephone booth. And the great neon sign.

One weird note: the new Fedora will stay open until 4 AM, every night. Interesting.

Fedora was my second "Who Goes There?" column. I may pay one last visit before it goes.


CityGirlWrites said...

It's sad that so many family-owned businesses that have been around for decades, like Fedora and Carmine's, are closing throughout New York City. Often, neighborhood mainstays like these are replaced by establishments that have no connection to the area and barely survive the first six months in business. One example was Joe's Candy Store, an Upper West Side shop that stood at the corner of West 75th Street and Columbus Ave. for more than 40 years until about 1980. When rent for the storefront tripled the owner was forced to close down his still thriving business. The space was taken over by a boutique that stayed open less than a year only to be replaced by a continuous series of businesses. Today it's just another Verizon store. Gino's Restaurant on Lexington Ave. closed recently after 65 years to be replaced by a Sprinkles cupcake shop. I wonder how long Sprinkles will last? At least your story has a bright side - the fact that the new owners at Fedora intend to keep many of the original elements of the place intact. Always enjoy reading your take on things and so happy to see more posts at Lost City.

Anonymous said...

The new owner is not asking for a 4:00am closing. It's 2:00am so not so weird. Meanwhile, a small group of neighbors is trying to impose such restrictions that if heeded, the place may not be able to be run at a profit and would close.

villagegal said...

Fedora lives in the building so she will be there often but being served, instead of toiling in the kitchen. The phone is staying, the sign is landmarked. There's no 4:00am closing, it's 2:00am. The tin wall and ceiling will remain...even the cash register. Lots of the memorabilia, too.

villagegal said...

Fedora may not have been elegant, but its customers often were.

Unknown said...

i was a customer there for over 40 years, i knew fedora and henry personally they were great people. fedora fed many a starving actor to be on the cuff. henry was funny with his sarcastic wit. an end of an era for sure i miss going to fedoras for her great home cooked food. another nail in the casket of the old village. bill b west virginia