The Wall Street Journal has an excellent yet sad story today about the imminent shuttering of Manganaro's Grosseria Italiana, a 9th Avenue Italian sandwich shop, restaurant, and grocery that has roots going back to the late 1800's. The shop began as a wine store in 1893 and expanded into hero sandwiches—they are said to be the inventors of the form by the way—and red sauce fare during the Prohibition, attracting garment workers, Italians in the neighborhood, and the patrons of the then Metropolitan Opera House. Business began to decline with the arrival of the Lincoln Tunnel (which forced the demolition of much of the neighborhood) and the more recent arrivals of places like Whole Foods and Zabar's. The notoriously surly attitude of the waitstaff may not have helped.
Now the owner needs to sell the restaurant's five story building, and when the deal closes, so will Manganaro's Grosseria Italiana. In a perhaps prescient move, Anthony Bourdain included Manganaro's in a 2009 show called "Disappearing Manhattan."
Of course there's another interesting little piece to the story: Manganaro's spawned a sister shop and now arch rival Manganaro's Hero Boy, run by the current owner's estranged brother. The two brothers have only spoken over the last three decades when discussing lawsuits against one another. Hero Boy is still doing fine, but the owner mourns the sale of the building next door and the decline of his way of life: "It really is a bit heartbreaking to see that a way of life is gone. There was craftsmanship in the Italian deli business. That craftsmanship is gone. Everything today is very much regimented and packaged."
Here is a clip from Bourdain's visit to the shop. Starts at 4:46.