A Startling Sight on First Avenue

| 14 May 2021 | 09:50

Manhattanites, stand up and cheer! A startling sight awaits you at the corner of First Avenue and East 20th Street every day at around 4:00 p.m.

That is when the line begins to form at Rosemary’s, which opened on May 4 and comes alive as the newest addition to Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Think about it: a new restaurant. It’s actually very exciting.

As a society, we don’t expect to celebrate any form of good news around these parts. The line is startling because journalists, pundits and sociologists have fed us the Really Big Lie ever since the global pandemic began to devastate our burg some 14 months ago: that our beloved city is, as the story goes, “dead.” (I don’t agree. New York is coming back!)

Rosemary’s, an informal, moderately priced pizza and pasta restaurant that first made its name in the West Village, looks to be a likely favorite among the NYU crowd of students who call the neighborhood home.

The NYU Dental School is a few blocks north of here and many of the students have share apartments in the area.

You practically want to blink when you see that a new establishment has opened for business after so many others suffered a cruel demise.

And if Rosemary’s hasn’t already provided enough excitement and optimism in the nabe, there is more good news. A bodega across the street, which, sadly, has really shuttered for the past 14 months will be re-opening soon. I hope the new owners are as pleasant as the family that had to close its doors.

The Big Deal

So, what’s the big deal, anyway, right? Restaurants and other establishments in Manhattan and all over the city come and go all the time, without any fanfare. Even before the pandemic turned our lives upside down, I witnessed a slew of my favorite hangouts going under – di Roberti’s and Moishe’s, to name two illustrious bakeries. (I continue to miss them all this time later, too).

But this restaurant re-opening is different – or, at least, it seems different. Living under the reality of COVID changes all of the rules. Somehow, bad news is even worse now. The disappointment of adjusting to a closure these days can border on the heartbreaking.

It means more than simply walking a few extra blocks to get a croissant or a slice of pizza. It’s akin to watching a soldier not make it on the battlefield.

Smiling Faces

On the flip side, I feel an inner sense of satisfaction when I glimpse the sea of smiling faces, day after day, outside of Rosemary’s.

When was the last time the people in my neighborhood had a reason to smile?

Across the street from where I live in Stuyvesant Town, we’ve seen the bodega, a terrific pizza place/Italian restaurant called Adriatic and a local hardware store all leave us. (The hardware store was absorbed into the big chain nearby, but it means we have lost another local institution, just the same). Adriatic had been here for decades. All gone.

Upheaval comes in many varieties on the street where you live. Even the good old Gristede’s supermarket has become a part of the D’agostino family. And don’t get me started on the turnover of beloved watering holes around here.

Good News

As the realist naysayers continue to remind us oppressively, New York City has a long way to go before it is out of the woods.

The city’s finances are a mess. The back-to-school program is riddled with uncertainty. Truth be told, nobody seems too excited about the next mayor, whomever she or he may be. (The televised debate on the evening of May 13 proved that point.) The Yankees have yet to be the Yankees. Jacob deGrom is on the injured list. The Rangers just fired their coach and the team’s two top executives. Did you ever think you’d live to hear a fanatical New York sports fan mutter, Thank heavens for the Knicks!

But I digress. Those existential concerns can wait. My neighborhood is jumping. We seem to be experiencing a revival. That’s pretty good for these troubled times. I’ll take it.