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Former Barbarini Owner Coming Back to South Street Seaport After Sandy

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — The co-owner of popular seaport eatery Barbarini, which remains shuttered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, is opening a new restaurant in the same location.

Stefano Barbagallo and his partners Claudio and Linda Marini had initially decided to move on from Barbarini after they learned the hurricane had not only destroyed the beloved Italian restaurant and grocery, but would keep the Front Street shop closed for months while the landlord made extensive repairs to the 19th-century building.

However, Barbagallo said, he recently had a change of heart.

“I found that place. I have a real attachment to the place and the neighborhood,” the Italy native said. “I’ve decided to take the risk and move back — I think it can be better than ever.”

Barbagallo, without the Marinis, resigned a lease last week with his landlord, The Durst Organization, for his old 10-table cafe at 225 Front St., which opened in 2007.

The partners had expanded the original cafe and grocery into a larger restaurant next door in 2009, but Barbagallo is not yet sure whether he’ll take on the larger space as well.

The new, as-yet-unnamed restaurant will be Italian, but Barbagallo is still deciding on all the details for the new place, which he’ll run with his wife, Adriana Luque.

While he’s sorting out the restaurant’s concept, Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee gave Barbagallo a warm welcome back to the neighborhood this week — and unanimous advisory approval for a liquor license.

“Glad to have you back,” Seaport Committee Chairman John Fratta said Tuesday night. “It’s really great news.”

But actually moving back in and reopening will take some time.

Representatives from Durst, at the same committee meeting, said Barbagallo’s new space, as well as the rest of the tenants on the historic slice of Front Street between Peck Slip and Beekman Street, won’t be able to get back into their shops until May 1 because of continued work on the damaged buildings.

And the residents above the stores can’t come back until June 30, Durst representatives said.

But Barbagallo is hoping to get up and running as soon as possible, hopefully by June 1, he said.

As for his former co-owners, the Marinis say they’re happy about Barbagallo’s plans — and that he’ll be bringing business back to the neighborhood.

The Marinis are in the process of starting a new restaurant called Da Claudio in the Financial District, though they haven't finalized a location yet.

“Most of our customers are looking forwarding to two new restaurants branching out from the old Barbarini,” Linda Marini said. “We wish them much success.”