Friday, January 21, 2022

Hope to see you again


Cat Power's excellent new record of covers, titled Covers, was released on Jan. 14. In this video, Powers (aka Chan Marshall, a one-time East Village resident) provides a mournful reinterpretation of "I'll Be Seeing You."

A young hawk hangs out on 5th Street

Photos by Steven

On Wednesday morning, a juvenile red-tailed hawk — likely migrating through the area — came to rest on a fire escape on this Fifth Street building.
There was a lot of curiosity, then concern, as the young hawk hunkered down here between Avenue C and Avenue D for nearly 20 hours. 

Eventually, some members of the local bird-watching community called Ranger Rob (aka Rob Mastrianni, a Manhattan Ranger supervisor), to come take a look.

It all ended yesterday without any further drama, however. Before Rob had the chance to leave for Fifth Street, the hawk, who did not appear to be injured, flew off to unknown parts.

The first look at the all-new Via Della Pace on 4th Street

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

I’m back at Via Della Scrofa to meet with co-owner Giovanni Bartocci and get a sneak peek at Via Della Pace’s new location at 87 E. Fourth St. between Second Avenue and the Bowery. Business partner and co-owner Marco Ventura keeps tabs on the alimentari while Bartocci takes me down the block to see the renovated space as they ready it for opening. 

While here, I ask for an update on Bartocci’s expired E-2 visa. (He was back in Italy as of yesterday.) In addition, we talk about the fires in the previous location in 2020 after 17 years in service, the status of the new space, and the immigration issues that have forced Bartocci to temporarily leave the United States.

What’s the status of the new home for Via Della Pace?

We are close — very, very close to opening. Close to opening sounds funny, but we have been almost ready since the end of July, but nothing is playing on our side. We are stubborn, and we don’t give up!

You posted on Instagram in 2020 that you were able to salvage the original sign from Seventh Street. Will there be anything else from the original restaurant here?

Thank God the first fire [Feb. 10] wasn’t as bad as the second [Dec. 5]. And the most important thing, no one got severely injured or worse, and the only damage we had was mainly from the water. 

We didn’t have a single flame inside, and we were able to save most of all the memorabilia and tables — the soul of VDP is going to be there!    
How did you mark the 1st anniversary of the fire this past Dec. 5?

I just stopped by and cried a bit. It is really painful for me every time I pass by! I miss VDP every single day — it was just magical. 

You mentioned that your E-2 visa has expired, and you are being forced to leave the country until you can reapply. Are you comfortable talking about the visa issue? 

What can I say? Since Feb. 10, 2020, everything went wrong, and my visa problem is just a consequence of all these crazy events. For sure, I can tell you I wasn’t very lucky but considering what is happening in the world, I’m alive and still fighting, so I should reconsider the word luck. Plus, after two years I will see my family again. Yes, I must go back to Italy, but you will not get rid of me so easily! [Laughs]      
You can keep an eye on the restaurant’s Instagram page for any updates.
Previously on EV Grieve

Kim's Video lives on with 'Staff Picks' at Metrograph

Metrograph is honoring one of the greatest places you loved to hate in a new series titled "Staff Picks: Kim's Video," which gets underway today (Friday!).

Cutting and pasting the entire description right here:
The Kim’s Video empire started out in an enterprising immigrant hustler’s East Village laundromat on Avenue A, a joint that ran a dodgy sideline renting VHS tapes out of cardboard boxes and laundry baskets. It became a legendary New York City institution — a discount film school, with outlets as far as exotic Jersey City and a multi-story flagship located in a former bathhouse on St. Mark’s Place, famous for cranky behind-the-counter attitudes, dismal wages, and a mind-boggling selection. 

After the closing of its final location in 2014, Kim’s faded into the mists of legend: an exceptional place, but also representative of a broader international video store culture that’s long hovered on the brink of extinction.

Kim’s is gone but far from forgotten, and so Metrograph salutes the esoteric eclecticism of Kim’s Video with a series made up of film selections and introductions by a number of former store clerks who’ve gone on to better things still branded for life by their time, as well as the mysterious Mr. Kim himself. 

Staff Picks will continue throughout 2022, each month featuring selections that celebrate the small and specialty video stores, independent theatres, and community hubs where passionate film lovers gather. Titles include selections by Isabel Gillies, Lorry Kikta, Ralph McKay, Alex Ross Perry, Sean Price Williams, Mr. Kim, and more.
Find out more about the series and ticket info here. Metrograph is at 7 Ludlow St. just above Canal.

And some flashbacking for you, courtesy of ... here's a look at Kim's Video when it was at 85 Avenue A (now Somtum Der) between Fifth Street and Sixth Street (click on the image for a bigger view!)
Kim's on A closed in the summer of 2004. 

And! Memories!

This block of 3rd Street gets a psychic with $10 specials; 'walk-ins welcome'

It has been nearly three years (!!!) since we noted a new business opening involving a psychic in a storefront. (We're back! Wooo!

Anyway! EVG reader Erin notes this arrival on Third Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue... this space was previously home to a more-useful business — Sunrise Cleaners.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Officials: Police arrest teen accused of starting fire that destroyed the Essex Card Shop

A teen has been arrested in connection to the fire that destroyed Essex Card Shop at 47 Avenue A on Jan. 10

An FDNY official confirmed the arrest (as well as age and gender) to EVG contributor Stacie Joy. We're told the charges include second-degree arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief for the 13-year-old, whose name was not released due to his age. 

Officials and other sources said that the teen was seen leaving the shop minutes before management smelled smoke. Investigators were able to pull photos/videos from the store surveillance camera. 

The fire destroyed Essex Card Shop, which moved here between Third Street and Fourth Street in June 2020 after 20 years on a storefront one block to the south. 

Owner Muhammad Aslam has said he will reopen the business, which has collected more than $65,000 in a crowdfunding effort to help pay for expenses and lost income. 

The fire also temporarily shuttered Downtown Yarns next door.

As previously noted, the stout cement ceiling and brick walls in the storefronts of the 13-floor Ageloff Towers served as a firebreak and prevented further damage to the building and adjacent businesses.

A visit to Via Della Scrofa

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

The warmth of the small but well-stocked alimentari fogs up my glasses, and I can still faintly smell delicious espresso and chocolate-y scents even behind my face-covering mask as I enter Via Della Scrofa at 60 E. Fourth St. 

Co-owner Giovanni Bartocci is there to greet me and show me around the recently opened shop between Second Avenue and the Bowery as locals drop by for sandwiches and morning coffee.  
On this winter morning, the usually gregarious Bartocci is stressed about a recent immigration decision that’s forcing him to temporarily leave the country for his native Italy. Regardless, he still manages a smile and presses some individually wrapped cookies into everyone’s hands before they exit the store.

I wait until there’s a break in the foot traffic to talk with Bartocci about the store, the neighborhood and his somewhat uncertain plans for the future. (We’ll have more on his status in part two of our coverage tomorrow, in which we discuss Via Della Pace, his 17-year-old restaurant on Seventh Street and Second Avenue that was destroyed by a fire in 2020. Via Della Pace is set to reopen on Fourth Street this year.)

How did Via Della Scrofa come to be? 

My business partner Marco Ventura and I always wanted to open a little Bottega — a little shop. You can find one in every town in Italy where you go to buy just some guanciale, and you get out with a bag full of different things and go back in because you bought biscotti, pasta, candy, olive oil…but you forgot the guanciale [laughs]!

Plus, we couldn’t go back because of the pandemic, so we tried to recreate a little piece of Italy here. The name Via Della Scrofa came almost naturally for many reasons. We own Via Della Pace, the restaurant. And in Rome, the two streets are very close, like we will be when we can reopen the restaurant. 

On Via Della Scrofa in Rome, there is the famous restaurant Alfredo Alla Scrofa from Alfredo of the Alfredo sauce fame. And last, the “scrofa” is the sow…and if you walk in [to the shop], you want to eat everything.

What do you recommend for first-time shoppers at the store? What are the best-selling items?

I recommend not being shy and asking for suggestions from Marco or me. We will guide you and explain what we sell —we want you to experience our traditions in the best way possible! 

The best-selling item for sure is the Chinotto Neri — so good we went out of stock in less than 40 days, but it will be back by the end of January. Also, porchetta and guanciale cioli, Galatine Milk Candy — a lot of things!
Why is it important for you to have your businesses in the East Village?

We love the East Village! We have always been here; this is our neighborhood. It is like a home away from home! We always try to be here for the people of the East Village. We stayed open during the Sandy blackout, giving away food and we did the same for the people living in the buildings of the explosion in the opposite corner [of Via Della Pace in 2015]. People needed just to show us something to prove they were living there, and we were offering spaghetti al Pomodoro and a glass of wine anytime they wanted.

What’s next for the shop? Any future plans?

Now we just want to open the restaurant — we are focusing on that. After that, we don’t know. We are happy as long as people walk out of our locations with a smile. 

And if we will make a lot of people smile, then we will consider new adventures. 
You can keep tabs on the shop here. They are open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

And stay tuned for part two of our coverage tomorrow, where we talk about Via Della Pace’s reopening and the complex immigration issues that are forcing Bartocci to temporarily leave the country.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Wednesday's parting shot

As seen on Seventh Street today by Derek Berg ...

A Perfect Ending

Text by Julius Klein
Photo by Tom Warren

It was around 5:30 a.m. and time for me to go home. I was leaving “Delia’s” on East Third Street, one of the many after-hour joints on the Lower East Side in the late 1980s (though with the night’s cocaine use, I probably could have hung out another couple of hours or so). I didn’t even bother to zip up my jacket against the cold and sleet, the coke’s superman quality, and as I was just a block and a half skip (or stumble) away from my apartment on Avenue B and Fourth Street.

Walking east toward Avenue B in the vacant, orangey street-lit darkness, I heard a siren screaming toward me. I was at the corner, in front of the rolled-down Chinese take-out place; I could see lights speeding my way up to Third Street. A cop car in hot pursuit of a goldish Cadillac Eldorado, with a deep, mustard-colored, gold “Landou” roof, a classic “gangster ride” of the time.

Abruptly, the Caddy made a left, tires screeching, fishtailing south down Avenue B. The cop car screamed to a stop in the middle of the intersection. Two cops jumped out, guns drawn. A block away, I saw a police van flying through the intersection at Second Street and B in an attempt to head off the Caddy.

As the Cop van smashed into the rolldown of a storefront on the east side of the street, the Caddy crashed into a light pole, its hood popping up and small flames jumping out. The guy staggered out with a shotgun, and as he shoots (I was then crouched behind a convenient mailbox), the cops nailed him from both sides.

Before falling flat back, the “perp” gets off one more blast towards the sky. BAMM! “Fuck heaven, I’m going to hell” might have been his very last, tapering off thought?

The cops cautiously moved in, guns, wisely still drawn. I followed behind a dozen paces or so. The guy was clearly dead, lying face up, eyes open, in the wet gutter; snowy water pooling around his husky body as his blood joined the little, frosty stream.

Lit by the small fire under the smashed hood, and the now tilted street light, as well as the disco-y, red and blue, swirling siren lights, I could see a man, 50, 60ish, tan, in his leather, cream-colored “members only” jacket, open, his grey knit shirt slightly pushed up, exposing his belly. He had a thick gold chain around his neck, a gold belt buckle, a gold bracelet peeked out of his sleeve, a gold watch on the other. Maybe an Italian guy? Dressed very neatly and expensively in the style of his glory days, a decade or so before.

As a fire engine rolled up and several other vehicles arrived, a cop, now telling me to get back, I asked, “what’d he do?”

The cop answered that the guy “dumped a body, in an empty lot, over by Avenue D,” something fairly common at that time.

I took one last look down at the fellow and could see that this was his perfect ending, something he probably thought of many times through his years, an ending he probably discussed frequently with his criminal colleagues.

Some months later, maybe even a year or so later, I saw in some East Village gallery, a large photo print of the end of that very grim scene, by my colleague, the excellent photographer, Tom Warren, who kindly gave me the OK to use it to illustrate my little recollection.

The book, “The 1980s Art Scene in New York,” can be viewed through Jan 31, and ordered online at (Germany)

Panda Express pulling into this storefront on 14th Street and 1st Avenue

Renovations are underway in the corner space on the SW side of 14th Street and First Avenue.

Pinch (with the help of EV Arrow) points to the work permits... where we see that a Panda Express is coming to this storefront...
This marks the latest outpost for the quick-serve Chinese restaurant chain that launched in California in 1983 ... with more than 2,000 locations today (with a handful around NYC). 

An AT&T store was here for a few months... taking over for the Vitamin Shoppe.

And as a P.S. for the SW corner... a Citi Bike docking station was installed here at the start of the year as part of the EV expansion...      
Thanks to Pinch for the Citi Bike pic!

A look inside the new Empire Cannabis Clubs on the Lower East Side

Empire Cannabis Clubs debuted back on Jan. 8 at 172 Allen St. between Stanton and Rivington. (This is the former home of Bluestockings, which moved to a new space on Suffolk Street last spring.)

This is the second location for the business billed as "NYC’s First RECREATIONAL Club." They debuted on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea last fall. As the name suggests, it's a private cannabis club — you have to become a member to purchase but browsing is free.

First, here's more about their mode of operation via their website:
We have been involved with the acquisition, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis as well as the advancement of the cannabis industry into the legal marketplace for decades, and we are happy to be utilizing our expertise to assist all New Yorkers in meeting their personal cannabis needs.

New York state law now [as of March 2021] allows the possession of up to 3 ounces of cannabis putting the days of worrying about the aggravation from law enforcement seemingly far behind us.
We are here to help, and to get started we have formed The Empire Cannabis Clubs, a concierge service dedicated to supplying the highest-end cannabis products at prices you can afford.

We have taken the blessings of the New York State Legislature allowing the transfer of cannabis without profit and have setup a membership service in which the club will acquire cannabis products for its members, and only add the cost to facilitate the acquisition and transfer of said products.
EVG contributor Stacie Joy stopped by over the weekend. Management invited her inside to take some photos and browse the THC-infused cannabis products.

Per Stacie: "This location has gummies, candies, 'flower,' tinctures, chocolates, prerolls and pens/cartridges. Budtenders were all super friendly."
Find info about memberships here.

Vegan Grill makes it signage office on St. Mark's Place

Signage is up now for Vegan Grill, a quick-serve, plant-based restaurant debuting soon at 58 St. Mark's Place between First Avenue and Second Avenue. (First reported in October.)

The business got its start in late 2019 on Castle Hill Avenue in the Bronx; this will be its third outpost after a grand opening in Williamsburg this week. You can find a menu here and some food pics on Instagram.

The Dip, which served a variety of sandwiches, opened here in late 2019...  and barely had four months in business before it shuttered during the pandemic

Thanks to Steven for the photo!

The former Tatsu Ramen space is for lease

Closed for renovations notices remain posted outside Tatsu Ramen, 167 First Ave. between 10th Street and 11th Street.

If there was any doubt about a permanent closure ... the storefront is now on the rental market, as EVG regular Upper West Sider points out. (No rental signs on the space just yet.)
The restaurant went dark earlier in the fall of 2021... the "closed for renovations" signs soon followed, though there was never activity inside the space. Still, patrons who liked their offerings — a few EVG readers said they enjoyed the vegetarian ramen — hoped for a return.

The Southern California transplant opened here in a competitive ramen market back in July 2018.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Bonus flashback: Disco Donuts edition

So here's a 1980s flashback for you... after all the comments on the post earlier today about 5 Napkin Burger closing on the SW corner of 14th Street and Third Avenue. 

As several readers noted, Disco Donut held forth here until 1985. (Photographer unknown. Photo via the NYC Nostalgia site.) 

 Travis also took Iris here for breakfast in "Taxi Driver."


Jeremiah Moss has more on this corner, including upstairs tenant Carmelita's Reception House, in this 2009 post.

Workers finish demolition of the old retail spaces along 250 E. Houston St.; now what's next?

If you've walked by 250 E. Houston St. in recent days, then you likely noticed that workers have mostly finished removing the one-level strip of storefronts.

Demoliton started in mid-November ahead of a new mixed-used building for the property here between Avenue A and Avenue B. The demolition has been a challenge/nuisance to nearby residents — especially when jack-hammering starts at 7:30 a.m. on a holiday. There have also been dust complaints, per city records

Here's a look from late last week at the now-empty lot courtesy of EVG contributor Stacie Joy...
EVG reader Jim Knapp shared this photo below of the retail spaces at the start of the demolition. The businesses in these storefronts either relocated closer to the residential building at 250 E. Houston St. (Kapri Cleaners and the FedEx Office Print & Ship Center) or closed (Dunkin'/Baskin-Robbins, Subway, Mattress Firm and China Town).
Jim also shared a time-lapse of the building demolition, which you can find on YouTube. 

As for what's next, there's a filing with the DOB for a 6-story mixed-use residential building, as we reported on Jan. 3 ... (click on the image for more detail) ...
However, sources tell us that this was just a preliminary filing to allow for the demolition ... and that the plans for the building will actually be closer to the size/scope of the adjacent 13-floor residences at 250 E. Houston St., the former Red Square that opened in 1989

For now, not much will likely happen on the empty plots. 

Revisit this EVG post from 2016 for a photo of this property before Red Square arrived in the late 1980s.

5 Napkin Burger closes on 3rd Avenue and 14th Street

After nearly 10 years on the SW corner of 14th Street and Third Avenue, 5 Napkin Burger has closed... signage on the front door points would-be patrons to other locations of the chainlet...
The burger joint opened here in February 2012... and in the summer of 2019, downsized the space, which became 5 Napkin Burger Express for two years ... which became Tamam Falafel, which closed at the end of 2021. (Both 5 Napkin and Tamam Falafel share the same ownership.)

This space was previously home to Robin Raj Discount Health & Beauty Aids (that seems like a long time ago!). 

There will be some speculation about the future of this high-profile corner with single-story structures — seemingly ripe for development. Not sure what kind of air rights there might be with the newer 21-floor 110 Third Ave. on one side and NYU's 17-floor Palladium Hall on the other.

Thanks to all the EVG readers who shared this news!

Updated: Flashback to the 1980s and Disco Donut here