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Mimi's Pizza Priced Out of the Upper East Side After 51 Years, Owners Say

By Shaye Weaver | June 30, 2016 10:45am
 Mimi's Pizza, which was a favorite of people like Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and others, closed on Sunday.
Mimi's Pizza is closed due to too high costs, the Vanacore family says.
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UPPER EAST SIDE — The Vanacore family watched as the final remnants of Mimi's Pizza were taken away after a public auction on Tuesday.

The longtime pizzeria — which over the 51 years it's been on the Upper East Side was frequented by big names like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Bobby Flay — served its last slice on Sunday after the family and the landlord couldn't agree on terms for a new lease, they said.

"It seems like the Upper East Side is no longer a place for a family business," said Lisa Vanacore, who owns the shop with her husband, Stephen. "It's very difficult."

The couple and their 19-year-old daughter Christina Perrotta were gathered at the restaurant on the corner of East 84th Street and Lexington Avenue to hand off the remains of their kitchen equipment and furniture on Wednesday afternoon.

They compared losing the restaurant to mourning a family member. From 2000 to 2003, Stephen Vanacore lost his mother, brother and his father, Dominic, who went by Mimi and whom the eatery was named after. 

"It is like losing them all over again," said Perrotta, adding that she had worked at Mimi's Pizza with her parents since she was 2 years old. "I feel bad for my step-dad. His heart and soul was in this business."

"This was the last piece of us," Lisa Vanacore added, tearing up.

The family said they could not negotiate an affordable rent with their landlord, and will have to be out of the space by Friday. They declined to say how much they were being asked to pay. The landlord did not respond to request for comment.

Lexington Avenue was all mom-and-pop shops when Stephen Vanacore was growing up and working at Mimi's, he said. There was a candy store, a butcher shop, an independent drug store and a print shop, Yorkville Copy, around the corner that was priced out two months ago, Vanacore said.

"We had a cleaners here that had to close and the pet store closed. The demographics are changing," Lisa Vanacore said. "All we see now is Starbucks, drugstores and banks. We're priced out of the neighborhood and I think it's hard for a pizzeria to make these kind of rents no matter what kind of history we have up here."

The Vanacores live in New Jersey now but used to live right across the street so they could see the bread being delivered every morning, they said. 

Upper East Side resident James Tang, 32, was a regular at the pizzeria, having gone there since the time he was a child.

"When I had chicken pox when I was 4, it was the only thing I wanted," he told DNAinfo New York on Wednesday. "It's really sad and actually a travesty. It's like an Upper East Side landmark, a staple. The fact that it's closing shows nothing is protected and there is no semblance of permanence."

Moving forward, the family is going to take some time to "rest, relax and re-evaluate," Stephen Vanacore said. "It's tough business. I have to find someone I'm comfortable with to work with. Hopefully we'll be back."

Mimi's Pizza customers flooded Facebook this week to express their sadness over the closure.