Family-Owned Italian Eateries Still Stayin’ Alive on Mott Street
The COVID-19 shutdown has devastated myriad mom-and-pops, often rent-burdened, throughout the city.
News reports of legendary bars and restaurants going out of business appear on an almost daily basis. Nothing is immune. Even well-established eateries with several locations, and with the advantage of digital marketing campaigns, have closed their doors during the lockdown.
But on a small stretch of Mott Street in Little Italy, three legendary, family-owned Italian joints are surviving, despite the economic challenges and personal health risks caused by the pandemic.
Parisi Bakery – family-owned and operated for three generations – is still open for over-the-counter business, albeit with shorter hours and three-customer limit. Widely known for their over-stuffed yet affordable, classic Italian sandwiches and prosciutto bread, the shop is normally favorite among locals and tourists alike.
But today, Adrienne Parisi, who has run the bakery/deli since her husband passed in 2012, tells us that she saw a distinct drop-off in street traffic and business as early as mid-January, when New Yorkers first became aware of the novel coronavirus. Business further cratered after the city stopped all non-essential construction work. The ever-increasing cost of basic supplies and eggs is also hurting their bottom line. Shortages on retail goods have also cut into Parisi’s profit margins as deliveries of canned drinks and snacks became unreliable.
Adrienne is working six days a week now, and coming in as early as 2 AM to receive deliveries and prep the kitchen. “I’m working just to pay the bills and our employees,” she said.
But the old-school sandwich shop still remains a favorite for first-responders. Adrienne counts other front-line workers like the city’s Sanitation Department and Postal service employees as some of her most loyal customers. Locals waiting in line to order lunch expressed feeling safer with the activity Parisi brings to the now-quiet block. For many regular customers, Parisi isn’t just essential because of the hot food, but also because it provides neighbors with a social network where they can quickly check in and report on the health and well-being of lifelong neighbors, and find out if anyone needs help.