Thursday, December 5, 2013

About the new ownership for 105-year-old East Village institution John's of 12th Street

[EVG file photo]

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."

24 comments:

Jeremiah Moss said...

This is terrifying. John's is the LAST PLACE in the East Village that I actually enjoy going to for dinner. If this guy fucks it up, if he pulls a Beatrice Inn maneuver, a Carbone, a Fedora, a Bill's Gay 90s John deLucie bullshit move, then may the gods boil him in oil for the rest of his days on earth.

He better do what he says and not touch a fucking thing.

Jeremiah Moss said...

What he says sound good on the surface, but the opening line "I can't reveal too much at this point," makes me not trust him. If you're leaving it as is, then what is there to be revealed, or not revealed? Plans, that's what.

Dear Mr. Rasinksi, don't make any fucking plans. Don't change the menu, don't change the prices, don't change the silverware. Leave John's the fuck alone.

Anonymous said...

I really love this place and now that some of the other red sauce joints have been upscaled and at least for me, become no longer accessible-two of which in the west Village that shall …ahem..remain nameless, but I think you know who I'm talking about, I really hope John's is left as is, thank you.

Anonymous said...

No velvet ropes, please...the East Village already has enough o' them!

Anonymous said...

+ all the above.

olympiasepiriot said...

I am not a fan in the least (I tend to steer people away from it at all costs if they ask me.) -- however, I wouldn't look forward to what it might get turned into by that guy with his track record.

Brian Van said...

CB3 should really question them HARD about what they intend to do in terms of serving the general public. Shouldn't be endorsed to transfer if his plans involve VIP service, velvet ropes, or lounge settings in any way.

Anonymous said...

Just look at his record... Enough said. Fucking Assholes!

blue glass said...

history will certainly repeat itself and another east village landmark will disappear.
john's was/is a family tradition restaurant. like the waverly inn and the blue mill USED TO BE. guess there were no more old-time restaurants in the west village to ruin so they've came over here to expand their holdings.
the only reason to buy john's is to "improve" it a a high-end special place for those fragile million dollar stars - or for our rapidly turning into times square neighborhood.
will tourists flock to johns the way they do to mama leones?

aveaisessex said...

I'm conflicted about this. John's is a unique place and certainly a dying breed. But, as a patron for over 10 years, I feel that the quality has declined. So much so that last time I was there, I questioned whether I would be back.

Ideally, this new ownership takes an "improve" vs. "overhaul" approach. And don't touch the candle mass in the back room!

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

The food probably won't change much. What this guy knows how to do is buff up and repackage restaurants with history. Based on Beatrice Inn, he'll probably set aside some tables for neighborhood walk-ins but will be taking reservations from the likes of Charlie Rose and his friends.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I got nervous - some California dude that has to do with "The Beatrice Inn" who's only been here for 7 years or so… but it sounds like he has a closeness with the place and an understanding of what it is, and that it will remain the way it should. Let's hope for that!

Anonymous said...

B Van supports this joint as much as Rasisnski is preserving this joint. Van prefers a 7-11 or a full liquor bar there.

Goggla said...

My heart is in my throat. I want to believe what this guy says, but when have any promises ever been kept?

Abby Bean said...

The service has been ghastly the last few years; that could certainly use an overhaul.

Anonymous said...

...Second that.

HippieChick said...

My heart is full of fear at the prospect. This guy's track record does not inspire confidence. I've been to John's alone, with friends and family, and with famous friends who appreciated the anonymity, and I am nervous that as with dude's other "improved" establishments, all that will soon matter will be that fame thing...which will totally suck

Anonymous said...

How is this place anyway?

We tried Lanza's for the first (and last) time recently, a place with similar vintage. (Philip Glass was dining there at the next table, incidentally). Pleasant enough atmosphere with white table-cloths and tables spaced far enough apart that one can hold a conversation. However, the prices were high for just pasta, and the food was only mediocre.

I still can't fathom why spaghetti marinara should cost a double-digit price anywhere.

I miss Max for good inexpensive pastas. Paprika is also excellent, but their prices have risen, and they are apparently under new ownership as well, so not clear how that will change the menu and quality.

Via della Pace is a beautiful place, but the food - which once was excellent - is just so-so.

So (and maybe this should be a separate thread) - What do Evers recommend for excellent affordable Italian food in our neighborhood?

I suppose we should try John's. Every time we are at Angelica I notice it and am curious about their vegetarian menu.

- East Villager

Jill said...

If they bought the corporation, they don't have to apply to cb3 for the license transfer, so theoretically they can do pretty much whatever they want, forever, as long as they maintain the "method of operation" which is also a meaningless phrase in reality.

Scooby said...

Never been to this restaurant but I am with all that ant to hold him to keeping the place just as it has been - the way it was when he first went in there and was welcomed as a person not a "cover" for the evening's books.
And I'll offer you this, Brett - as a full time professional waiter with a true appreciation for historical places (I started in this business at McSorley's in the 80s) - if you keep this place the way it is and want a solid member of your staff who will maintain a tradition of good old school entertaining watering- I will be more than happy to come in and speak with you. I will be back in NYC sometime in June (presently in your state of former residence) and would love to be a part of a place such as John's. We will both be happy - as will your customers - so long as they're not the new breed of self-indulgent wankers that seem to take over every place.
I challenge you to keep the place as is - down to the silverware. It is too precious a piece of history to do otherwise. Buona fortuna

Anonymous said...

I'll be pleasantly surprised if John's survives. It is, yes, a treasure of the EV. Yes, the quality has declined a little recently and, yes, it could use some (very modest) reworking in the kitchen/menu/service (a little, just a little) but that's it. Keeping John's John's is probably the best business strategy. Changing it in any significant fashion that's not just improving it a bit, will make it into a generic EV place with the likelihood of survival about the same.

Anonymous said...

Wow, time for another visit to Johns before it disappears...

Anonymous said...

We dined at John's on Saturday (Feb 15) and the proprietor told us that the deal had gone south! Can anyone else confirm this?

RocknRollBallerina said...

I eat at John's all the time. I love it. It's the best vegan Italian food in NYC.