The Vesuvio Bakery at 160 Prince Street has long presented one of New York City’s iconic storefronts. The bakery opened in 1920 and was owned by Anthony Dapolito, who delivered Vesuvio bread on his bicycle as a child, for many years before his death in 2003.
The space is currently Birdbath Bakery, which calls itself “one of the the most eco-friendly businesses on earth.” Bread is delivered by bicycle-powered rickshaws and discounts are given to customers who roll up on bikes. (why not walk-ins?)
To neighborhood outsiders, it still looks like Vesuvio’s… the Birdbath sign is small and stashed at the lower left corner of the left window.
i used to live around the corner, on prince street in soho, back when the neighborhood’s italian immigrant roots were much more evident than they are now. there was none of the abercrombie crew emporio starbucks navy barn nonsense back then…. storefronts were owner-occupied a la michael anchin, or (real) art galleries and museums (guggenheim soho, anyone?) or art “stores” like keith haring’s pop shop, or independent interiors shops like ad hoc softwares and almost everything on lafayette and the forever-missed canal surplus down on, you guessed it, canal street. by the time i’d moved into the neighborhood, soho was well on it’s way to transforming from a once-african-then-irish-then-italian immigrant neighborhood into an artist neighborhood, and, though i didn’t realize it at the time, into the bourgouise enclave i’d flee just a few years later for artier (and more affordable) digs.
but, in the meantime, mr. dapolito welcomed us all.
anthony dapolito was wonderful and equally friendly to his old friends and “newcomers” like me, probably 40, 50 years his junior. from the first time i walked into vesuvio bakery until the last time i was there before his death (he’d been frail and sick and not always behind the counter in the last years,) he treated me like a part of the neighborhood and i felt, as an extension of that welcome, like a part of the family. a distant cousin, perhaps, but family, nonetheless.
it bore a stark contrast to my neighborhood baker near my just-previous apartment, which happened to be in paris, france… there, the baker (boulangeriere) pretended not to even know who i was for the first year i lived there, despite my arrival roughly four days per week for a fresh baguette and croissants on almost the weekend.
when mr. dapolito died, the doors stayed open, and when people would inquire where he was, the kind and stoic and slightly sad but honest and open reply, given no doubt by someone who loved him more than we did, was this,”he died last week… but thank you for asking about him.”
that “vesuvio bakery” storefront is an iconic new york image, and mr. dapolito was everything that was right with new york. i am glad i got to know him, beyond the iconic surface, if only a little bit.
his bread wasn’t half bad, either.
Thank you for your wonderful reminiscence. It is the humanity that shines out of this that touches my heart.
Though I’ve remained loyal to Zito’s on Bleecker, you wrote a very touching piece there. I will miss the old neighborhood. You touched on a soft spot when you mentioned Canal Street – I used to go with my father to the military surplus shops – back when you could buy real grenades. I too remember Keith Haring’s place, I used to walk by his loft all the time and remember his painted up door buzzer. So many memories, salute to you.
My grandfather had a candy store across the street @172 Prince Street. The Dapolito family knew all my relatives, my father, uncles and Aunt and grandfather that I never met. The last time I was there was 1990, I was giving a tour to my wife….my father worked on S Houston, until 1975 and picked up bread there every day to bring home. I have one photo of the Candy Store, (store front) with my grandfather and Uncle standing in front of it…probably 1940’s if I was to guess…but have been unable to find the actual address of 172 Prince Street on Google….they may have changed the numbers.
Thank you for that beautiful comment. My great Uncle Tony would have loved to hear that! He was such an important part of the neighborhood and such a warm and caring person. I can only hope that his legacy will live on along with that of Vesuvio.
I’m glad they maintained the old storefront. NYC history is important. Also, they make some great cookies!
RIP Mr. Dapolito; sorry we never met. As for Birdbath, as the Starkist tuna ad campaign used to say: “But Charlie, Starkist wants tuna that tastes good, not tuna with good taste”. Enough political correctness. It’s killing us. You know hipsters have become irrelevant when they become the subject of a cable sketch com series (“Portlandia” on IFC) which is laugh out loud funny. Enjoy the Key Food bakery. You’ll pay the same amount whether you travel by bicycle or Benz. It’s just business, such a refreshing concept these days.
Found some more photos on YELP and an interesting article in the NY Times
Enjoy the Key Food bakery.