BY GABE HERMAN | Birdbath Green Bakery in Soho, at the former site of the legendary Vesuvio Bakery, closed on Aug. 9.
Birdbath, which is owned by City Bakery, moved into the space at 160 Prince St., between Thompson St. and West Broadway, in 2009. The bakery still sports the original Vesuvio storefront.
Rubin’s Instagram post included memories of being in the Prince St. space for 10 years, and thoughts on the location’s historic significance.
He wrote about opening there in 2009, “after Vesuvio’s sat empty after the death of Anthony Dapolito, the 2nd generation of the family that created Vesuvio’s in 1920.”
Anthony Dapolitio, known as the Mayor of Greenwich Village, sold the bakery in 2003 because of health issues and died later that year at age 82. Known to all as “Tony,” he was a local activist, with a focus on parks, especially, and served on Community Board 2 for more than 50 years, including as its chairperson for many years.
The park around the corner from the bakery, at Thompson and Spring Sts., was renamed Vesuvio Playground in the 1990s in honor of Dapolito. A Parks Department policy did not allow it to be named for a living person, so it was named after his bakery. In 2004, the nearby recreation center at Carmine St. and Seventh Ave. South was named after him.
Like only a few other Village spots, the bakery still was using a coal-burning oven during Dapolito’s days.
Rubin added in his Instagram post, “There are few places like Vesuvio’s left in New York, a sad, diminishing reality. To a bakery lover, it’s an heirloom. To a New York lover, it’s history.
“We had ten special years behind that storefront. We kept the facade exactly as time delivered it… I always felt this was the perfect evolutionary handoff: last century baking yielding to a new generation. In material terms, Semolina Bread and Pepper Biscuits turned to Pretzel Croissant and Rice Milk Muffins with Red Beans & Ginger.”
Rubin noted that many people had thanked him for not changing the place’s exterior, “a compliment that settles in my heart. Same time, have to admit that that was no grand decision: I simply wasn’t going to be the schmendrick who desecrated a city landmark.”
Rubin ended his post by writing, “In these days of ‘retail apocalypse,’ we ran an old-fashioned neighborhood bakery. We knew each other’s names and felt part of a continuum. It was neighborhood, community and friendship. Vesuvio Bakery is magical, and I’m grateful I got to swim in that magic.”
The 160 Prince St. location is in the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, which was approved in 2016 after a 10-year campaign, noted Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation.
Berman said that the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report for the historic district mentions the Vesuvio Bakery storefront, and how intact it is. The report also notes that the building was built in 1904.
“We fought very hard to ensure that the landmark designation for this district acknowledged and protected these kinds of features,” Berman said of the bakery’s vintage exterior, noting these things are “an especially important part of the character of the district and neighborhood.
“What this should mean going forward is that the wooden storefront itself should be protected and preserved,” he continued. “It does not mean that the name ‘Vesuvio Bakery’ or even ‘Italian Bread and Biscuits,’ which appear in the window or on the awning, would have to remain. Though if a new store operator wants to replace these elements, the L.P.C. might ask for something stylistically similar to replace it.”