A year ago when Anthony Bourdain did his “Disappearing Manhattan” show, he blogged that “Manganaro’s is a bit of vintage Italian-America that people raised on a more al dente, post-Batali, Northern-inflected, lightly sauced, meatball-free, Italian might not appreciate. But it’s a vital step back in time, another world, and an essential one to remember and to cherish.” He wrote that such businesses were hanging on because “they’re owned by magnificently stubborn people who happen to own their buildings,” but The Wall Street Journal reports not even that can keep Manganaro’s alive: The Italian grocery and restaurant that dates back to 1890 will close as soon as someone buys the building for $5.3 million.
Eighty-three-year-old Sal Dell’Orto, who for 60 years has been feuding in and out of court with his brother James (the operator of the adjacent Manganaro’s Hero-Boy, which will stay open), tells the Journal that business ain’t what it used to be, and he fears his daughters will be “taken advantage of” if he hands the store over to them. Really? Those daughters seem plenty capable of fending for themselves, as a Midtown Lunch post attests: “The two ladies who run Manganaro’s could be considered … well … crazy. And I wouldn’t use the B-word, but sure … they can [be] bitch-like … but in the best possible way!” (Words of advice from Midtown Lunch: Don’t take photos, don’t mention Hero Boy, and don’t admit you’re a blogger.)
Some real sadness here, and it kind of lends perspective to EV Grieve’s bellyaching about the new MP3 jukebox at another Italian old-timer, Mulberry Street Bar in not-so-Italian Little Italy. Hey, as long as they keep putting tables on the sidewalk for outdoor beers, and as long as they keep that sleepy back room where scenes from The Sopranos were filmed, we’ll forgive them the technology. We’ve certainly never complained about the place’s karaoke machine.
Yes, they’re trying to shorten the San Gennaro route this year, but at least Lombardi’s is still keeping it real, per a recent Slice stop-in; though that blog doesn’t seem nearly as excited about the old-timer as Serious Eats is about nearby newcomer Rubirosa.