West Village Italian neighborhood restaurant Dell’anima will shutter by year’s end. In a newsletter, the tiny-but-popular 11-year-old wine destination points to an all-too-common closing cause, saying the model of the “elevated” neighborhood restaurant no longer works in 2018. December 23 will be the last day.
The letter from owner August Cardona and chef Andrew Whitney said that “the business model of the small yet ‘elevated’ neighborhood restaurant — one that was unique just over a decade ago — simply no longer works in the current environment, as has been the case for so many others in the city.”
Cardona tells Eater he has seen this coming for three years now, since the restaurant’s 10-year lease was up in 2017. His landlord has been letting the restaurant go month-to-month since then, but is now eager to sign another 10-year tenant at the current market rate, which Cardona says Dell’anima cannot survive. It already pays close to $250 a month per square foot in the 800-square-foot space for total occupancy costs, which accounts for things like taxes and insurance.
That, combined with rising labor costs — something Cardona is quick to say he supports — are not feasible in a small restaurant with a commitment to a certain service level and with a broad wine program, he says. He considered toning down the wine program in order to cut down on some training and labor costs, but in the end decided “that’s not what Dell’anima is,” he says.
Dell’anima opened in 2007 as a supremely hot ticket. In the decade since, it settled into a still-happening but more relaxed Italian venue known for its expansive by-the-glass and wine program. Since then, parent restaurant group Epicurean Management has opened L’Artusi and Anfora, as well as opened and closed L’Apicio, Alta Linea, and Ellabess.
Indeed neighborhood restaurants have been having a hard go of it lately. In the last year, local favorites such as Thai destination Pok Pok, Williamsburg Southern spot the Brooklyn Star, Portuguese Midtown restaurant Lupulo, and Flatiron American restaurant the Gander have all closed. Dell’anima is the latest.
“There’s really no crime in this. My landlord is great and the restaurant has never been better. There’s no one to blame,” Cardona says. “It’s a model of an elevated neighborhood restaurant that right now doesn’t have a place.”