Volume 22, Number 24 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 23-29, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Julie Shapiro
Sarabeth’s is close to signing a lease with the owners of Bazzini, which has been in present-day Tribeca for over a century.
Wholesale change for Bazzini: Sarabeth’s to replace it
By Julie Shapiro
In the latest example of “new Tribeca” beating out “old Tribeca,” the Bazzini grocery, cafe and nut shop on Greenwich St. will soon become a Sarabeth’s restaurant.
This won’t be the first time that a neighborhood fixture in Tribeca becomes a chichi food destination — but it could be one of the last, as some see Bazzini as the final holdout of Tribeca’s past.
Rocco and Electra D’Amato, who bought Bazzini from the founder’s nephew in 1983, began searching earlier this year for a new tenant for the space, though they will continue operating their nut factory in the Bronx. Rocco D’Amato told Downtown Express in April that the new Whole Foods down the street from his Tribeca shop was cutting into his business, and he and his wife were looking to move on. D’Amato pledged then to keep Bazzini open until a new tenant was found.
That new tenant will likely be Sarabeth’s, a small chain of bakeries and restaurants started in 1981 by Bill and Sarabeth Levine. Known for their brunch and homemade jams, Sarabeth’s has outposts on Central Park South, on the Upper East and West Sides, in Chelsea Market and in Key West, among other locations.
“It’s about time we went to Tribeca,” Bill Levine said by phone last week. “It’s a great area for the type of people that love Sarabeth’s. It’s a trafficked area, it’s popular and it’s the perfect spot.”
Levine expects to sign a lease for 339 Greenwich St. in the next few weeks, start construction this winter and open in August 2010. At 4,800 square feet on street level and 3,000 square feet below, the restaurant will be the company’s largest and will include an expanded retail section, where customers can buy Sarabeth’s granola, coffee, jams and frozen soups.
The shop will not include a full grocery like Bazzini has now, and Levine said he has no plans to sell the nuts and candy that the D’Amatos will continue to manufacture. Since Sarabeth’s will sell a narrower array of products than Bazzini, Levine is not worried about competition from Whole Foods.
Levine anticipates serving alcohol and last week won advisory approval for a liquor license from Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee.
The D’Amatos did not return calls for comment this week, but Rocco described his plans to Downtown Express several months ago. The couple hopes to someday leave their nut and candy business to their children and travel to warm places in the winter months to scout chocolate and other ingredients.
Outside of Bazzini on a recent afternoon, passersby said they were sad to hear that the store would soon be gone.
Susan David, 62, recalled shopping there with her children 30 years ago, when the store was still owned by descendents of A.L. Bazzini, the Italian immigrant who founded the company 119 years ago. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, David said she used to split 5-pound bags of raisins and nuts with other Independence Plaza North families, so they could take advantage of the wholesale prices.
“This used to be a real neighborhood place,” David said, speaking in the past tense although Bazzini is still open for now and a closing date has not been set.
As for Sarabeth’s, David was not enthusiastic.
“Tribeca’s not what it was,” she said, “so it’ll do alright here.”
A few Tribecans said they looked forward to having Sarabeth’s baked goods in the neighborhood. But Mary Rose Coleman, 48, a Battery Park City resident, said she didn’t think she’d go up to Tribeca just to eat at Sarabeth’s.
A harried middle-aged woman who was rushing to a meeting at the Borough of Manhattan Community College said she wished Bazzini could stay open forever.
“I hate to see all the changes,” she said. “A little stability would be good right now.”