GREENWICH VILLAGE — Caffe Dante, a gathering spot for Greenwich Village's formerly thriving Italian community and arts scene, is being sold to new owners and will close, according to reports and staff at the eatery.
The 100-year-old cafe has struggled since its rent at 79-81 MacDougal St. doubled last year, according to the blog Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, which first reported the cafe's impending closure.
The cafe shut down briefly last year to renovate and reboot the menu, but the overhaul apparently was not enough to keep the spot afloat.
Jeremiah's reported that the business was sold to new owners who plan to keep Caffe Dante's name, but the cafe is still set to close as soon as later this month.
Representatives of the building's management company and the Flotta family, who own the cafe, could not immediately be reached for comment. The identity of the new owners was not immediately clear.
Longtime regular Danny Bellino, 51, was crushed when he learned the cafe where he spent nearly every day in the late 1980s and 1990s would no longer be run by owner Mario Flotta Sr.
"It won’t be quite the same if Mario doesn’t own it," said Bellino, who lives around the corner from the cafe. "It takes away a piece of what makes Greenwich Village what it is, and that keeps happening."
Nanette Funk, a recently retired Brooklyn College philosophy professor sitting amid the cafe's framed photos of celebrities on Tuesday, said the neighborhood has changed such that the people on her block, where St. Vincent's Hospital was once located, are "transient," wealthy New Yorkers who buy and sell apartments frequently, never becoming part of the fabric of the neighborhood.
"The people who I would want to have in my neighborhood can't afford to be here," said Funk, 73. "It's not a place I really want to live in anymore. It's depressing."
Funk has lived in the Village since 1973, and said she doesn't know where she'll relocate for her daily meetings with friends if the community atmosphere at Dante changes. She considered Caffe Reggio, another century-old coffee shop on MacDougal Street, but said "Reggio is more of a tourist place."
Mostly, Funk worried about the staff. She asked them if the new owners would keep them on, but they said they didn't know yet.
Lloyd McNeill, 79, said he has been coming to Caffe Dante since he moved from Washington, D.C., to New York City in the early 1970s. McNeill, a jazz musician and flute player who taught music and art at Rutgers University for 33 years, comes to the cafe to draw for several hours a day.
“Because the end is near, I’ve been coming every day,” he said.
Bellino was cautiously optimistic that the cafe, known for creamy cannoli and overflowing, foamy cappucino doused in cinnamon and cocoa powder, could still be a haven under its new management. Another eatery he frequented, Once Upon a Tart in SoHo, was closed for several months, and since it reopened, he's found it equally pleasant. So, he's going to give Dante's new owners a chance.
“I’ll come. I’ll check it out," Bellino said. "I hope they’ll try to stay the same.”