Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Memories of Di Bella Bros. on First Avenue



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

14 comments:

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Palermo Bake Shop had fantastic delicious bread, you could get six rolls for a buck and these were very thick rolls that already made your mouth water as you were carrying them home. Awesome, even in my memory my mouth is already drooling wet.

Anonymous said...

DiBella Brothers was total comfort food for me, and my "go to" deli for decades. I've been miserable since Jaesun and Sue retired because I cannot find another Italian deli that makes stuffed peppers as delicious as the DiBella recipe. If John can clue us in to a source, I'll be eternally grateful ! And thank you very much for all those years of wonderful food !

Anonymous said...

a friend who grew up nearby introduced me to dibella when i moved here in the early 80s. his first advice was that they made a sandwich sure to cure hangovers -- pepperoni, ricotta salata and pepper salad -- and doggone if he wasn't right. moved through the menu ravenously after that.

i got priced out of the east village decades ago, but i still miss the place.

DrGecko said...

Way back when, and I'm sure the statute of limitations has long run out, they used to sell homemade wine in gallon jugs. You asked for "grape juice" with raised eyebrows. I assume that it was of cultural significance, since it was remotely drinkable, tasted like rubber-coated electrical cable that had been soaking in oil.

Robert Sietsema said...

Their most famous production--and I'm pretty sure the brothers invented it--was a hero sandwich with prosciutto and ricotta, and it fed many East Villagers in the early 80s. I've never seen anything quite like it, and I still sometimes make an inferior version at home.

Anonymous said...

AWESOME.

Gojira said...

That last photo - I want to shop there.

Anonymous said...

DiBella's was a must go to when itcame to the holidays. I still savor the taste of their stuffed articokes with prociouttto. How I wish Carmine and John had produced a cookbook of all their faboulous foods.

Anonymous said...

Pepperoni, Ricotta and Viennese salad sandwiches made me very happy between 1979-1982 as a high school student nearby,l and as returning customer for years thereafter

Anonymous said...

Love that cookbook idea... Never to late, ya know ? !!!

HippieChick said...

Oh, Di Bella! AND Palermo...the smell wafting out of the bakery around 1 am as I walked home from the 14th Street bus was heavenly. So missed...

Anonymous said...

I wish we still had a good sandwich place like that. What I wish we didn't have is the blinking electric Hampton sign - is that even legal?

Anonymous said...

Generations of Stuyvesant High School students have a permanent home in their hearts for the "Stuyvesant Sandwich"; 3 cheeses and venetian salad on delicious crusty bread. The debate continues at every class reunion as to which were the 3 cheeses!

Suzanne Forbes said...

As a Stuyvesant student in 1980-1983 and also a former cheesemonger I am pretty damn certain that the cheeses were provolone, a harvarti with caraway seeds, and muenster. But what, what were the miracle ingredients of the salad? Roasted red pepper, and long whitish strips of some fibrous vegetable marinated in the oily vinaigrette, and something else. I only grieve for it, can never reproduce it.