28 February 2011

Manganaro Grosseria Italiana to Close

We seem to be in one of those periodic spells where the New York landmarks fall like dominos. Monte's Venetian Room definitely gone for good. O'Connor's Bar to be changed beyond recognition. Karl Ehmer leaves Ridgewood and its building becomes a storage facility. Carmine's gives up finally.

And now we hear that Manganaro's Grosseria Italiana, one of the bedrock institutions of Ninth Avenue in Midtown, with roots going back to the late 1800's, will close, and the owner will sell the building. The frozen-in-time place will shutter as soon as a deal is sealed. So hurry up. This is obviously not the usual circumstance of a rent hike, since the Manganaros own the building. Business has been slow, said owner Salvator Dell'Orto. I'll post more about this in the future. For now, read more here.

The shop began as a wine store in 1893 and expanded into hero sandwiches—they are said to be the inventors of the form by the way—and red sauce fare during the Prohibition, attracting garment workers, Italians in the neighborhood, and the patrons of the then Metropolitan Opera House. Business began to decline with the arrival of the Lincoln Tunnel (which forced the demolition of much of the neighborhood) and the more recent arrivals of places like Whole Foods and Zabar's. The notoriously surly attitudeof the waitstaff may not have helped.


G-Box said...

Brooks, I read the WSJ article you link to. Wow, wotta story! Used to be that two brothers ran the shop but then they had a falling out and one of them opened his own "hero" store right next door. What happened next was 30 years of fratricidal litigation and untold legal bills. The WSJ mentions that about 10 years ago a judge ordered the Grosseria owner to pay $400,000 to his brother. The brother said it would "help" defray his legal costs. Imagine. Seems that besides being the place that claims to have invented the hero, the Grosseria has perfected what I'll call "anti-service". Literally chasing customers out of the place sometimes. Okay, the owner says that they get pesky tourists who ask unanswerable questions! I can see where tourists would treat such an historically important place as though it were an exhibit on Main Street, USA at Disneyland. That would irritate me, too. In the article the owner is quoted as saying he's selling because he's afraid that after he's gone people will 'take advantage' of his daughters if they try to run the place. (he only had daughters) Okay biz is bad.....the nabe changed...the garment district moved to Shanghai.....the Lincoln Tunnel took out a big slice of the nabe.....the old Opera House came down.....these guys have been through a lot. Still though I have to wonder if they could thrive economically if they changed their attitude toward customers and really played up the hero angle....sort of become an Italian Katz. Guess not.....the listing agent says she's had an offer for 4 mil for the place.

I'd better go there soon and collect my sandwich with a side of insults before they close. Hey I wonder if it would be possible to put together a list of joints that are famous for BAD customer relations? Or would it be essentially endless????

upstate Johnny G said...

The plot thickens....now comes a wire service story quoting one of the daughters saying that the Grosseria is NOT closing. Of course she remembered to put in the caveat....they "hope" to get a lease from the new owner. My only question is, how stupid are these people? Everywhere you look, long-loved small businesses are being put out of business because their landlords raised their rent so high they can't stay....and these clowns want to SELL the building that houses the business they say they want to SAVE????? They must be using Charlie Sheen as a consultant.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about this place closing. It's old time NYC, but believe me the sisters who run the place are absolute shrews. They are Sicilian "soup nazis" but their food isn't good enough to justify the treatment they dish out. Half the time they are civil, but the other half they will curse in your face. Truly bizarre.