‘New Leshko’s’ closes; end of pierogis

By Albert Amateau

Leshko’s, the former pierogi palace on Avenue A that morphed into a less-ethnic diner two years ago, is morphing again, this time into an upscale Latin American restaurant and bar.

Leshko’s, 111 Avenue A, closed two weeks ago after Bob Ponterelli and Stephen Heighton, owners of Barracuda and Elmo’s, two restaurants in Chelsea, sold the East Village place they had been running for the past two years.

Jeff McGovern, former general manager at Leshko’s, said the former owners became too busy with their Chelsea restaurants and decided to sell.

The new owners, David Gelbard and Moshe Hatsav, have applied for a liquor license for the new place, called Yuca, bar and cocina Latina.

Terrance Flynn, Jr., lawyer for the new owners said they intend to open soon as a high-end Latin American restaurant and bar. Gelbard owns two restaurants in Manhattan, one of them in partnership with Hatsav, Flynn said.

Some neighbors are bemoaning the passing of what used to be a Ukrainian enclave in the East Village. The original Leshko’s was a quintessential diner, one of a number of such Ukrainian restaurants in the East Village, including Odessa, Kiev and Veselka. One neighbor said she recalled that a previous owner had assured her that pierogis would be on the menu no matter who owned the place. Under the new Leshko’s, pierogis did in fact continue to be served. Whether the new Latin restaurant will offer the tasty Eastern European-style dumplings was unknown, though probably unlikely.

Bob Arihood, a photographer and longtime East Village resident, said the neighborhood has been changing, but previous attempts to change Leshko’s into an upscale place have failed.

“Lots of young people come into the neighborhood on weekends and that’s when fights break out. I don’t think they’ll be looking for an upscale restaurant but you can never tell,” he said.