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Famed Carmine’s Restaurant Could Reopen in the Seaport

By Julie Shapiro | December 1, 2010 1:50pm | Updated on December 2, 2010 6:19am
The former Carmine's at the corner of Beekman and Front streets closed at the end of last June.
The former Carmine's at the corner of Beekman and Front streets closed at the end of last June.
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Flickr/duluoz cats

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — Carmine’s Italian Seafood may be on its way back to the Seaport.

The vintage maritime-themed restaurant closed last June after anchoring the corner of Beekman and Front streets for 107 years.

Now, Greg Molini, whose family has owned Carmine’s since 1977, hopes to reopen the restaurant one block away on Peck Slip.

"There’ll never be anything like the old Carmine’s," Molini told DNAinfo Tuesday. "I’m not trying to recreate it, because I can’t."

But Molini, 47, said he hopes to bring back many of the pieces of the old restaurant, including the wooden bar that served as its centerpiece. He also wants to keep the affordable, hometown vibe while building a larger, 21st-century kitchen.

Molini, a Brooklyn resident, first set foot in Carmine’s when he was about 10 years old, around the time his father bought the establishment from its namesake, Carmine Russo.

Back then, Carmine’s was known as a watering hole for local residents and workers at the Fulton Fish Market, a place where regulars appeared at the same time every night.

"It was like Cheers," said Jack Putnam, 74, who worked as the overnight bartender at Carmine’s 30 years ago. "If someone was missing, everybody noticed."

But once the Fulton Fish Market moved to the Bronx in 2005, development in the neighborhood ramped up, and the clientele at Carmine’s grew touristy, Putnam said.

"I don’t know to what extent the spirit of that time can be recaptured," said Putnam, who recently heard about the plans from Molini. "The question is whether it will still work."

Molini thinks it will. He said he received dozens of phone calls when Carmine’s shut down last summer, from people who were begging him to keep it open.

"Everybody knows about it and everybody wants it back," Molini said.

Molini said the landlord of the old space jacked the rent up to $13,000 a month for just 800 square feet, which he could not afford.

Now, Molini is in negotiations to lease the former Harbour Cafe space at 29 Peck Slip, which is bigger and, he hopes, more affordable.

"I don’t need to be a millionaire," Molini said. "I just need to make a living, and if Carmine’s is open, I’ll be happy."

Molini would like to sign a lease within the next two weeks and reopen Carmine’s, which is unrelated to the Midtown restaurant, in April. He has applied for a liquor license at Community Board 1, and the board’s Seaport Committee will consider it on Dec. 15.