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Monday
Jun272011

Tonio's Closes After 19 Years, To Possibly Be Replaced by Dunkin Donuts

After nineteen years in business on Seventh Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets, Tonio's restaurant has closed. The owner, Antonio Gaita, has decided to retire, and there's a rumor that his restaurant, a classic old-school red-sauce joint, where Antonio himself could usually be seen going table to table greeting his loyal regulars, will be transformed into a Dunkin' Donuts.

Tonio's was never known as a great restaurant, but that old world charm (imported, along with Antonio, directly from Avellino, a little town near Naples) attracted many a devoted follower over the years, who would show up near-nightly for baked clams, shrimp oreganate, scungilli marinara, chicken marsala, and other traditional Italian fare. It's layout, a dining room nearly invisible from the street along with a small bar in the back, was about as old-school NYC Italian as it gets.

It's just a rumor as of right now, but someone tweeted to FIPS that a Dunkin' Donuts will be moving into the space. I'll keep you updated as to whether that's true or not, but as of right now there's no reason to doubt it.

Monday
Jun272011

Bare Burger Facade Revealed, Scaffolding Down, Temp Signage Up

Bare Burger, the burger chain that lets you try lots of different organic, all-natural animals, will be opening up soon on the corner of Seventh Avenue and First Street (it was first announced here in March). Since construction began (in the old Artesana space), the entire building has been given a facelift, a shiny new yellow facade was installed, and as of last week, some signage has finally gone up.

There are three other locations: one is on LaGuardia Place in Manhattan, another is on Third Avenue in Murray Hill, and the original is on 31st Avenue in Astoria. Reviews have been largely positive; here's a look at their menu.

Monday
Jun272011

Coming Soon: Cozbi, 351 Fifth Avenue

Last Friday, signage went up in the window of the storefront that was last home to Fez Salon (before it moved two doors down into the old Under the Pig space) saying "Coming Soon: Cozbi, Handmade Goodness" (tough to read, but trust me, it's there).

A little digging reveals that there's a Cozbi on Court Street, so most likely this location, between Fourth and Fifth Streets, will be the second outpost of this chic boutique. It's run by artist Cozbi Cabrera, and will specialize in Honduran-inspired muñecas, "one-of-a-kind fabric dolls with delicately painted faces and hand-dyed dresses," as well as "an expanded product line that now includes women and children’s clothing, accessories and quilts -- all made in Brooklyn."

For more details, you can check out the New York Magazine review (it's a critic's pick!).

Monday
Jun272011

Business of the Week: 6th Ave. Deli, 133 Sixth Avenue

This article originally appeared on Patch.

It's called the Sixth Avenue Deli, but nobody calls it that. Instead, it's referred to as "the bodega," "the grocery," or, in my case, "the corner."

That's right: this unassuming storefront on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Sterling Place is my corner store, and it's exactly what you would hope for it to be, which is a great thing.

They dot the city's landscape, and can be a lifesaver when you need to use an ATM or grab a sandwich. The traditional Entenmann's cakes, canned goods, sodas, beer, and general household goods are all for sale, along with the usual lottery tickets, ice cream, and various things that you find yourself running out of unexpectedly and breathing a sigh of relief when you realize it can be found only half a block away. Whenever I find myself in this situation, then two minutes later have enough eggs or flour to continue making the pancakes I'd started, it's tough not to be thankful to live in a city where such convenience is possible. Who needs a car?

Abdul

"I love this neighborhood!" exclaimed Abdul Gobah, who manages the store along with friend Rafi Shohatee. They both emigrated from Ibb, Yemen in the mid-90s and worked at various groceries around town before opening the shop up in 2005 (Abdul has a wife and young child back in Yemen, whom he visits a couple times per year). "Most people who live around here are nice, good people," added Rafi. "Nasty people don't ever come in here."

"Hi, Dan!" is the greeting I get when I walk in the door. "Want a sandwich?" Abdul, Rafi, and their employees always make a point of remembering their customers' names, jobs, usual order, and other relevant information. "How's the lady?" It may sound cliche by now, but this type of service--a genuine interest in making sure the customer is okay--just doesn't exist in places like Duane Reade. It's a brand of hospitality that only exists in independent shops like this one.

Not only does this deli always seem to have exactly what I'm looking for, it's also spotless. In the late hours, Abdul can usually be found sweeping and mopping the floor, tidying the shelves, and dusting. When asked why he's so meticulous, he replies, "This is my house!" And it's true: he's almost always there, and lives a block away.

Rafi

Abdul and Rafi aren't just managers of a store in Park Slope, they're woven into the very fabric of the community. "One of our friends parks her car in front, and one night someone hit her car and tried to drive away," said Rafi. "I ran outside and blocked his car, took his ID and license plate, and didn't tell him that it wasn't my car until later."

"If I don't see a customer for a while, we'll worry about them," added Abdul. "Because they're not just customers. They're family."

6th Ave Deli, 133 6th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-230-1192.

Friday
Jun242011

The Park Slope Week in Review: 6/20/11 - 6/24/11

The week got started with some pretty big news: An owner of Thistle Hill Tavern will be opening up a "modern Asian" restaurant on the corner of Seventh and 11th, and the head chef will be none other than Dale Talde, who helmed Buddakan and also appeared on Top Chef (and Top Chef Masters). Kulushkat, The new "gourmet falafel" restaurant, also opened on Dean Street near Fifth, and is damn good.

On Tuesday I wondered if this neighborhood really needs a "night watch," which was suggested by a Brooklynian poster after his bicycle seat was stolen. If you agree with him, feel free to drop by the meeting he's scheduled for Sunday at PS 321.

Wednesday brought confirmation that Kohzee Cafe, the "blazingly mediocre" diner on Sixth Ave and Seventh St., finally shuttered for good after being shut down, repeatedly, by the DOH for offenses including live mice. The owner just kept peeling the sticker off and re-opening, apparently because he loves paying fines. Also, the Five Guys burgers headed to Flatbush Avenue near Seventh got some plywood.

The building that's been getting a gut reno on Fifth and St. Johns lost its scaffolding on Thursday, and Tenko Sushi, another blazingly mediocre restaurant up the avenue by St. Marks, closed for good.

And on Friday Faros, the new Greek restaurant, finally opened for good on Seventh near Union (sorry, no more free food!). Also, I had a chance to chat with the owner of Purbird, the restaurant coming to Sixth and St. Marks, and it's all chicken, all the time.