CAFFE DANTE HAS CLOSED
Caffe Dante shut its doors yesterday, Sunday March 22. 2015 … A very sad moment as I watched my friend of 30 years Mario Flotta pull down his pictures of the many Celebrities that have spent time at Caffe Dante over the years. I had to hold back my tears when I said goodbye to Mario and he and his two sons Mario Jr. and Anthony locked the doors for the last time.
I said goodbye to Mario and his sons and walked around the corner to go home, knowing my second home had closed for good. One of those sad moments in life, but one one must deal with never-the -less.
ME & MARIO
Greenwich Village Writer Daniel Bellino Zwicke
Mario Flotta Sr. at Caffe Dante on The Day of its closing, 100 Years
after opening on Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village … A Very Sad Day to say the least.
Copyright Daniel Bellino Zwicke
Yes it was quite sad day, the day my favorite caffe closed. I first started going to Caffe Dante in the Summer of 1985, after my first trip to Italy. I had passed by numerous times but never went in, for some reason the place didn’t appeal to me at the time, Caffe Luca around the block on Bleecker was my spot, and I loved it. I had been going to Caffe Luca quite often for three years before I set foot in Dante for the first time. The thing that got me going to Caffe Dante was that my good friend John Lee went there almost everyday, and he loved it, so I figured I’d give it a shot, and so I did. And so I went, and I liked it,and after a while, Dante became my daytime caffe, and Luca was were I went for my night time caffe, and I did this for a few years, never going at night, but several times a week, during daytime hours, and I soon became a regular Caffe Dante, and all the Maltese waitresses knew me, and I knew them, and I got to be friendly with the owner Mario Flotta and his sons; Anthony, Peter, and Mario. The waitresses at that time were Grace and Patricia, both from Malta, there was a Moroccan girl as well, my good friends Ada and Antionetta both came from Naples, Italy about a year later in 1986.
So I’d go to Dante several times a week when I could, which were any days that I didn’t work lunch at the restaurant, or I had the day off completely. And, as for Caffe Luca which I loved going to for years, and loved it, something happened. The old Italian guy *can’t remember his name), sold it to the two brothers who worked there. I hate to say it, but for some reason, the water glasses started smelling like a wet mop, and it didn’t stop. Som although I loved Caffe Luca, because of this, I just stopped going there. I didn’t want to, but the “wet mop thing’ wasn’t a one-time-deal, it was constant, and because of it, I just stopped going, no more Caffe Luca. About 8 years after I stopped going to Luca, the place, sadly closed down.
So, Dante was my caffe, I went ther almost everyday for 30 years from 1985 to 2015 when my buddy Mario Flotta sold the place. Yes, Mario had become a good friend. You don’t go to a place almost every day for 30 years, and not become friends with someone. Going to Caffe Dante was like being with family. I had my Espresso, Cappuccino, and many Caffe Lattes over the years, thousands of each. Some days I went there two times in a day, and on a few occasions I’d make 3 trips in one day to Caffe Dante. The days I went twice in a day, which were many, I’d go in the morning or afternoon, and then I’d go there, meeting Jimmy S. or Jimmy B., or with Dante or Merceditas, both ex-girlfriends who I had long relationships with.
Yes many times I’d be there with friends or a girlfriend, hanging out socializing, having a good times. Going there with friends was I’d estimate somewhere between 20 to 25% of my total visits of thousands of visits over the years, the other 75 to 80% I’d go there on my own, to read and relax, or write, But I was never alone, most of the time, some of my caffe-friends were there and we’d chit chat, and converse, and one does in a cafe. Ad if none of my cafee friends were around, there was always the girls. The girls? The waitresses, some of which became friends and we’d have dinner parties together, sometimes go to Arturo’s or Lomabardi’s for Pizza with Rose, Tony, Ada, and Jimmy Starace. We were all friends.
Yes, I read a lot of books in Caffe Dante over the years. I read The Count of Monte Cristo at least 2 times there, biography’s on Maria Callas, Aristotle Onassis, Grace Kelly, Talouse Lautrec, Picasso, Gaugin, Vasco de Gama, Christopher Columbus, Ernest Hemingway, and many more. Yes, I love biography’s. Yes, I read novels s well, and I started writing, mostly essays on all sorts of things, some short stories like “Espresso at 4” about the four Italian Ladies from the neighborhood who had espresso at Caffe Dabnte at 4 PM everyday for years. These ladies were wonderful, and I’d sit there with my Cappuccino and listen to theit entertaining conversations. These ladies, you’d think could solve all the problems of the world, listening to them. And I loved there heated discussions on how to make, Meatballs, Pasta Fazool, Lasagna, Marinara Sauce, or Ragu Napoletana. Yes I loved seeing these ladies every day at Dante, and listening to their lovely little conversations about this=that-and-every-other-thing. I miss these sweet lovely Italian Ladies; Babe, JoAnn, Mary, and Maria. I miss Caffe Dante and seeing Rose (friend / waitress) and talking about food and all sorts of things with here, but mostly about food, recipes, and how to make different dishes. Rose was a dam good cook (still is).
I always said, Caffe Dante was my second home, and it was. It was the same I believe for all of the many regulars. I wrote my first book (La Tavola) in Caffe Dante. Yes I had so many good times there over the 30 years that I went there. The caffe opened in 1915, and my buddy Mario Flotta owned it for the last 44 years of its existence. Mario wanted to keep the place going, and for his sons to have the place, but they weren’t interested. It sad. When Mario had his second heart attack, it took a lot out of him, and since his sons had no interest in the caffe anymore, Mario decided to call it quits, and very sadly so.
What was Caffe Dante, New York’s most authentic Italian Caffe for exactly 100 years, is now a high-price cocktail bar / restaurant. Mario sold the name, and the guy who bought it was smart, and he wanted to buy the name Dante, so now he can say that his place has been there since 1918. Yes this is true, but sadly Caffe Dante died in the year 2015. Those of us who were regulars miss the place dearly. We miss seeing each other (the regulars), we miss Mario and the girls, Ada, Antoinetta, and Rose. Well, as they say, nothing last forever, “things change,” and quite sadly Dante change, it died and we miss it dearly.
Damiel Bellino Zwicke
by Daniel Bellino-Zwicke
SECRET ITALIAN RECIPES
by Daniel Bellino-Zwicke
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RECIPES FROM MY SICILIAN GRANDMOTHER
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NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED SICILIAN RECIPES
DUE Mid APRIL 2015
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