First Slice Pizzeria in Greenwich Village

 

Before there was Joe Namath, Joey Heatherton or even Joe McCarthy, there was Joe Stanziani, a World War I veteran who opened one of Greenwich Village’s first pizzerias in 1933 at the corner of West 10th and Fourth Streets. With its red-and-white tablecloths, Neapolitan nautical prints and Venetian blinds (which were usually drawn), Joe Stanziani’s became a prototype for the red-sauce spaghetti joints that once seemed to be on nearly every block of the city.

But Joe’s, as it came to be known, was defined by its proprietor, a gesticulating, chain-smoking former member of the Italian cavalry who ran the place like his living room.

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When Mr. Stanziani died in 1978, his widow, Rita, leased the space to Andy Menschell, who called his restaurant Formerly Joe’s. Mr. Menschell replaced the mahogany paneling and brass chandeliers with track lighting and a turquoise and pink decor, and Formerly Joe’s flourished as an uncomplicated restaurant and neighborhood watering hole.

But in 1992, a lease dispute between Mr. Menschell and Mrs. Stanziani went to court, and the restaurant was shuttered. For four and a half years, the corner remained a boarded-up eyesore.

Andrew Nathan, a chef who owns Frontiere, a popular restaurant in SoHo, was one of many local residents who wondered what would become of the place. He recalled going to Joe’s for pizza with his grandparents when he was a child, and the many nights he spent winding down at Formerly Joe’s Cadillac-size bar after work as an apprentice chef at the Four Seasons.

”I always had a fantasy about opening a simple, laid-back neighborhood hangout,” said Mr. Nathan, 34, ”and that spot seemed the perfect spot to play out my dream.”

In 1993 he wrote to Mrs. Stanziani, who owns the building and lives there, asking about the space. She replied that it was not available. But one evening she secretly dined at Frontiere to size up his talents. The meal, she said, made a favorable impression, and two years later, she phoned Mr. Nathan to say that the lawsuit involving the previous tenant, Mr. Menschell, had been resolved in her favor. ”An hour later, I was over there,” Mr. Nathan recalled. Within days they had a deal.

Reminiscing last week about her years as a waitress and, after marrying the boss, as the manager of Joe’s, Mrs. Stanziani said: ”I knew a restaurant belonged there. And I’m thrilled with what I got.”

In 1993 he wrote to Mrs. Stanziani, who owns the building and lives there, asking about the space. She replied that it was not available. But one evening she secretly dined at Frontiere to size up his talents. The meal, she said, made a favorable impression, and two years later, she phoned Mr. Nathan to say that the lawsuit involving the previous tenant, Mr. Menschell, had been resolved in her favor. ”An hour later, I was over there,” Mr. Nathan recalled. Within days they had a deal.

Reminiscing last week about her years as a waitress and, after marrying the boss, as the manager of Joe’s, Mrs. Stanziani said: ”I knew a restaurant belonged there. And I’m thrilled with what I got.”

This article was Published in The New York Times … March 22, 1998

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NOTE : We could not find any pictures of JOE’S PIZZERIA of West 10th & Fourth Streets … John’s of Bleecker Street is Greenwich Village’s oldest Pizzeria, Since 1929 .

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JOHN’S PIZZERIA

of BLEECKER STREET

GREENWICH VILLAGE , NEW YORK

Photo Copyright 2014 Daniel Bellino-Zwicke

 

 

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LOMBARDI’S PIZZA which Opened on SPRING STREET in 1905 was America’s 1st Ever PIZZERIA ….

 

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LOMBARDI’S PIZZERIA

Giovanni Lombardi , Filomena Lombardi , Gennaro Lombardi … Circa 1925

 

 

To Read about ANDY MENSCHELL Anthony Bourdain’s “BigFoot” Click Here !

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