It’s something of an urban miracle. Eleven years after it closed, and 100 years after its founding, Soho’s Vesuvio Bakery has reopened, looking much like it did back in the day. In the interim, a Birdbath Bakery occupied the space. The bakery was originally founded by the Dapolito family in 1920. The front of the storefront at 160 Prince Street is now painted a sea foam shade of green, the gilt letters advertising Italian bread and biscuits have been restored, and an ancient dough-dividing machine — found in the basement during renovations — is in the window, along with the ranked stirato loaves that beckoned customers from the sidewalk for nearly nine decades.
The revamped bakery is the project of owner Adam Block, who also operates Print Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen. He brought on Sofia Schlieben, who worked previously at Marea and Veritas, as chef and baker. She told me, “Our goal is to pay homage and respect to the original bakery.” In doing so, she has recreated its original Italian baguettes, grissini (bread sticks), pignoli cookies, and tomato-dabbed focaccia. She’s added to the repertoire with more modern notions of bread, including fig and hazelnut, and olive and rosemary loaves, as well as a strong-tasting sourdough.
From the breads and focaccia, a small selection of sandwiches are prepared. On the day I stopped by (the bakery only opened this past Tuesday), there was a roasted vegetable sandwich and another featuring thin-sliced prosciutto. Other products available, “consistent with the current tastes of the neighborhood,” Schlieben told me, include sesame croissants with a sesame paste inside, adding a little sweetness; panzerotti, a sort of Italian cheese turnover; olive oil cakes topped with slivered almonds; and a very creamy Italian cheesecake tasting strongly of lemon and exhibiting a graham cracker crust.
The renovation took several months. It was “an almost archeological experience,” Schlieben said, pointing to the dough divider in the window, and demonstrating how it was once used to divide balls of dough too bulky and heavy to be accurately parsed by hand. She also said they’d be leaving it in the window to remind people how old Vesuvio Bakery was.
Vesuvio is now open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
[Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Adam Block secured the permission of the Dapolito family to reuse the name of the bakery. The retention of the name on the facade is a requirement of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.]