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.