Thursday, December 5, 2013
John's of East 12th Street, the 105-year-old East Village treasure, is about to begin its fourth generation of ownership.
Public documents on file at the CB3 website ahead of next week's SLA committee meeting show that principals involved in the new Beatrice Inn on West 12th Street will be taking over John's, the venerable Italian restaurant between First Avenue and Second Avenue.
New ownership is led by Brett Rasinski, who reopened the revamped Beatrice Inn on West 12th Street along with Graydon Carter and Emil Varda in December 2012. (Carter's name is not involved with John's.)
So does this mean the end to John's of 12th Street, which seemingly hasn't changed all that much through the years (vegetarian menu aside)?
We reached out to Rasinski, a former GM of the Waverly Inn, for more on his plans for one of the last of the so-called red sauce joints around.
"I can't reveal too much at this point, but I will say that I am approaching this venture as a preservationist," he said via email. "As an East Village resident, and a longtime patron of John's, I understand the historical relevance of the space, as well as the importance of its position in our neighborhood. That is why I was so adamant about securing the property."
Since 1973, Mike Alpert and Nick Sitnycky have owned and operated John's; they bought it from the founding Pucciatti family. (Sitnysky, who grow up in the neighborhood, owns the building at 302 E. 12th St.) Alpert died this past July 13 at age 71. He and Sitnycky had together previously discussed selling the business, according to Alpert's widow Judy Anderson.
"Prior to Mike’s passing away in July, he and Nick had made the decision to retire after 40 years at John's, and they were both very happy to come to an agreement with Brett, who has been a regular customer for over six years and has frequently spoken of his appreciation for the history and authenticity of John’s," Anderson told us. "Brett has told our kitchen staff and servers directly that he comes to John’s as a preservationist, so the neighborhood can anticipate seeing familiar faces and essentially the same menu."
Rasinski recalled his first meal at John's, and the immediate impression the place had on him.
"When I first moved to New York City from Newport Beach, California nearly seven years ago, John's was one of the first restaurants that I visited. I came across it one evening while wandering the neighborhood by myself. It was a freezing night in December, and the place was packed. They didn't have any tables available. Big Mike, who I later learned was one of the owners, approached me and said that he would find a way to clear some space. He ended up sitting down with me at a table by the bar for over three hours. He bought me a bottle of Chianti and a Chicken Parmigiana. Given that I didn't know too many people in the city, his generosity and kindness meant more than I can possibly explain."
Since then, he became friends with the owners of John's, and even expressed an interested in buying the space if they ever decided to sell. Several months ago, Alpert called Rasinski and said that they were going to retire.
"Prior to his passing, we were able to agree to the terms of the deal, and I have ultimately been entrusted with the responsibility of preserving their legacy, a 105-year-old tradition that Big Mike and Nicky have kept up for the past 42 years," said Rasinski, 29, who is the same age as Alpert was when he bought John's from the Pucciatti family. "I love John's the way that it is, the way that it has been for over a century, and I will do my best to ensure that it stays around for years to come."
[Via the John's Facebook page]
For Anderson, she feels good that the restaurant will continue on the same as it ever has.
"It's been gratifying to continue to have longtime customers from as far back as the 'second generation' while making new friends as people discover this treasure. We’re sure that Brett will enjoy the wonderful mix of people that grace our door. And of course, Nick and I are happy to help with whatever assistance Brett needs during the transition," Anderson said. "As Mike and Nick were the third generation of John's, having purchased from John's son Danny Pucciatti, we view Brett as the fourth generation and wish him and his team all the best in carrying on the John’s tradition."