’42 find shows eatery knew it paid to advertise


By Albert Amateau

The past came to light only a few inches beneath the floor of a Greenwich Village standby, Fedora restaurant, last week.

The restaurant, which began as a speakeasy in 1919 and morphed into a restaurant when Prohibition ended in 1933, was closed last July, but the former owners were renovating the place on W. Fourth St. for a new owner.

“We found this old book underneath the floorboards,” said Marilyn Dorato, whose mother-in-law, Fedora Dorato, 90, ran the place until July. The book, a ledger with entries dated July 31, 1942, offered a glimpse into the Village of nearly 70 years ago.

A check for $12.80 to The Villager for the month of June was one entry that day. Another was to Hudson Garage, for June for $20.35, and Lucy Ricciardi was issued a check for June for $37.40.

Dorato said she didn’t have any idea what the checks to the garage or to The Villager were for, but she guessed that The Villager was paid for the restaurant’s ads in the paper.

“Lucy Ricciardi supplied ice cream — the tortoni and spumoni — for a lot of the Village restaurants, ” Dorato said.

From the entries in the ledger, it looks like the restaurant, known back then as Charlie’s Garden, operated with a bank balance hovering around $500.

Back in 1919 when Prohibition became law of the land, Charles Dorato started the business at 230 W. Fourth St.

“It didn’t have a name, but after the end of Prohibition he continued the place as a restaurant,” Dorato said.

After 1942, when Charlie’s son Henry went into the service during World War II, two guys named Bill and Jerry ran it. But, after the war, Henry Dorato, who married Fedora, took it over in 1952. After Henry died in 1997, Fedora ran it by herself until this summer.

Dorato and her husband, Charles, named for his grandfather, dug into the family archive this week and came up with a 1920’s photo of the elder Charles, his wife, Desalina, and their Great Dane standing in front of a butcher shop in the Meat Market district.

“Charles used to work in the butcher shop owned by a cousin when he wasn’t minding the speakeasy,” Marilyn Dorato said. “Can you imagine what it was like to be a dog owned by people who worked in a butcher shop?” she added.

In addition, Marilyn Dorato noted, there’s a fig tree from Sicily in Fedora’s rear yard that every year yields a basket of “pretty good figs.”