clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dolce Vita Accuses Neighborhood of Mafia-Style 'Fear Mongering,' Bullying

New, 12 comments

Apparently things haven't been going so well for Dolce Vita, the Italian restaurant that opened in the space briefly held by the Dom's sandwich shop back in March. They have posted a lengthy letter at the restaurant and on their website accusing neighboring restaurants of "fear mongering," calling the police on them, stalling the liquor license process, and making empty threats: "In Little Italy?if you are the new guy on the block and not in everybody else’s back-pocket or part of Old Little Italy, you apparently do not have a prayer of making it." The letter goes on (and on and on), and by the end you kind of just want them to quit their whining. Sometimes it's a battle to get a liquor license downtown.

But you never know. Perhaps the other old school Italian restaurant in the hood are out to get the newcomers, and the letter shows just how hard it can be—and how desperate new owners can get—when opening up a small restaurant. Take a look at the (almost 1,000 word) missive:

Dear Neighborhood.
This is a heartfelt, open letter to my Little Italy Neighborhood. Since opening Dolce Vita located on 181 Grand Street between Mulberry and Baxter in March 2008, I have encountered a tremendous amount of fear mongering, bullying and ill will towards my restaurant from local restaurant owners and the like in the neighborhood.

Police are sent to my establishment from these restaurant ‘ghosts’ regularly checking for a liquor license, or a sidewalk café license or what ever else citation they can come up with as soon as a whiff of a busy Dolce Vita is caught from around the block.

As we wait for our liquor license which we applied for on February 8th 2008 and are subsequently still waiting for due to some ill alliances from certain members in our neighborhood and our initial lawyer to stall the process. We since have changed lawyer representation because of the fact that in Little Italy?if you are the new guy on the block and not in everybody else’s back-pocket or part of Old Little Italy, you apparently do not have a prayer of making it. It is incredibly difficult operating without a liquor license and solely hoping you will break even at the end of each month or just to pay your incredible, hardworking staff none of whom is currently in it for the money. Instead we are offering the alternative of a BYOB establishment while we wait for the ever illusive liquor license. In New York Italian in synonymous with wine?In New York your restaurant is not really taken seriously and therefore not really ’open’ yet without having a wine list to match incredible food. We are still waiting?

When I opened Dolce Vita I certainly was aware of the risk of opening a restaurant in this neighborhood, but I had a big vision and I have a big heart. There was a time when Little Italy had an authentic personality and represented what was wonderful, cultural, unique and special about New York. Nowadays Little Italy or whatever is left of it is engulfed by Chinatown, the locals flock to other neighborhoods to eat, because frankly they do not want to get mobbed by tourists or eat out of a 'barilla box' anymore, something they can do in their own home if they like. Honestly?I would not insult my neighborhood by serving anything out of a store bought box or mass produced tin can of tomato puree. I wanted to open a small restaurant, a little off the beaten Mulberry path that represented something fresh?a little different from everybody else where we make our own pastas and sauces and use organic produce wherever possible. I wanted to claim back a time in Little Italy’s history where New York mattered and it mattered being part of Little Italy. I wanted to breath new life here, maybe to some my gesture was too grandiose and naïve, but I have heart and I figured it would be best to try. Isn’t that what being a part of New York and being an American means? To try??

In fact?when I was told that I can’t have an open restaurant spot on Mulberry Street at the eleventh hour on the day that I had to sign on the dotted line, I knew that I was in for a challenge and that I can’t control what is already being controlled in this neighborhood. I then opted for my current location, took a huge risk anyway after already being ousted out by the implied before I even opened my doors for business. No other business in this location has lasted long (no guessing game here). I took the risk and being on the radar as the ‘new guy’ that ‘nobody wants here’ but I did it anyway, because I believe that this neighborhood still matters. On the rare occasion that we have a busy night, thru my kitchen’s back door I struggle with gawking eyes from the neighborhood restaurants, poking around to see why on earth Dolce Vita is packed and then waiting for the other shoe to drop of which official will stop by to enquire into my business practices, licensing and other matters and defend unfair, unfounded or untrue allegations against us.

As we are getting busier and busier, and let me tell you?It’s been nothing but an uphill battle? despite ill will and fear mongering towards us, I don’t claim to want the thousands of dollars Mulberry street is producing on a daily basis?all I claim is a chance, a real chance! A chance to Pay my staff, Pay my Con Ed Bill, Pay my Rent by having people eat in my restaurant because I believe what we make here is good stuff! If I get reviewed I want to earn it, If I get a bad review I want a chance to correct it. If I open a restaurant I want a chance to either fail or succeed on my own terms and not on the terms of Old Little Italy ‘ghosts'

It’s time for a New Little Italy?even If I fail at trying. Because I figure trying is better than not trying or giving up because of empty threats by ghosts.

Did you get all that? Have a heart Little Italy and stop getting all mafioso on these guys.
· Dolce Vita 'Dear Neighbors' [Official Site]

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater New York newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world