Back in April, we posted the ghost signage that EVG regular evilnyc spotted over at the Hamptons Market on First Avenue and East 13th Street ... it was the name of the former longtime tenant — Di Bella Bros., the beloved specialty foods market that opened here in 1925... A New York magazine article from August 1984 noted that Carmine and John Di Bella retired in the early 1980s ... and that they sold the business to Sue and Jason Shim, "who have mastered most of their recipes."
This past weekend, we heard from John C. Di Bella Jr., who had just come across the post. He said he was happy to see the positive comments about his family's market... he also shared some memories and history...
I worked for my dad and uncle Carmine during my teen years. I, too, have so many great memories. I learned how to speak Sicilian. I learned how to bone a prosciutto, make the famous stuffed peppers, stuffed artichokes, stuffed mushrooms and all the other recipes that I still know to this day.
I remember the room in the back of the store, which was filled with shelves with cheeses. We also had our own Olive Oil DiBella Bros brand, which was packed in the basement. I vividly recall the way they dressed with a tie and deli jacket. There was a warm and family feeling especially around the holidays.
The original Di Bella Food store was located at 273 Bleeker St. and was run and operated by the eldest brother Ben and youngest brother Mike while John and Carmine served in the U.S. Military. When they returned, John and Benny and Mike moved to 215 First Avenue and 13th Street. Carmine purchased his own deli in Corona, Queens, which was owned and operated by the former Gov. Mario Cuomo's parents. He later joined John on 13th Street.
The most important thing I learned from my dad and uncles were the strong work ethic which enabled me to go forward and become a successful businessman myself.
I am attaching a picture that I have of the store, which was taken sometime in the 1940s. You can see the old Di Bella sign and the Palermo Bakery, which made the best Italian bread in the world.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Di Bella Bros. ghost signage uncovered on East 13th Street