By Julie Shapiro
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — The legendary Carmine's Italian Seafood is closed for good, but its old wooden bar is getting a new home in a Maryland restaurant that recently survived a fire.
Over the weekend, the bar and many other Carmine's fixtures traveled by truck down to the Old Stein Inn near Annapolis.
"It's being reborn," said Greg Molini, owner of Carmine's. "It didn't disappear. It lives on."
Molini, 47, was heartbroken earlier this year when he had to put the 107-year-old restaurant's interiors up for sale on Craigslist, after his plans to reopen the venerable Seaport establishment fell through.
But then Molini found a kindred spirit in Mike Selinger, owner of the Old Stein Inn, who answered Molini's ad and agreed to buy the bar.
Much like Carmine's, the homey German restaurant near the Chesapeake Bay is a beloved local gathering place, where regulars celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Molini and Selinger both grew up in their family restaurants and see them as more than just a business.
"My place kind of burned down as well, just not literally," said Molini, who was forced to close Carmine's last summer after a sharp rent increase. "We related on that. We understood each other."
Selinger had been scouring the Internet looking for salvaged materials to rebuild the Old Stein Inn after a devastating Dec. 31 blaze gutted the 28-year-old restaurant. The classic mahogany bar from Carmine's caught his eye immediately.
"It just needs some cleaning and it's going to be beautiful," Selinger said by phone Monday. "We're going to bring it back as a centerpiece."
Selinger, 41, also bought the old Carmine's tables, booths and wood paneling, along with some of the maritime-themed knickknacks and pictures.
The exchange took place on South Street late Saturday afternoon, near one of the old Fulton Fish Market buildings Molini was using as storage. As Molini pulled all the Carmine's fixtures out onto South Street and loaded them into a truck, many locals stopped to ask where the familiar objects were going and to bid them farewell, Molini said.
Molini plans to travel down to Edgewater, Md. this summer for the reopening of the Old Stein Inn, so he can see the bar and booths in use again.
"At least I know it's in a safe home," Molini said. "It's cared for."
Selinger said he was glad to give Molini a sense of continuity, because it is rare to find a family restaurant with such longevity. Both men said they would like the bar to anchor its new location for as long as it did the old one.
"I'm hoping we'll get many more years out of it," Selinger said.