Scaletta, the Italian restaurant at 50 West 77th Street off of Columbus Avenue, is serving its last dinner this Sunday, March 25 after failing to sign a new lease with the landlord. In a letter sent to West Side Rag that we’ve posted below, Scaletta says it wasn’t the cost of the new lease, it was simply that the landlords “coveted a shinier, fancier model in our place.”
In response to Scaletta’s explanation, landlord Equity Residential sent the following statement: “Equity has had strong working relationship with Scaletta‘s over the last ten plus years. We truly appreciate Scaletta‘s contribution to our neighborhood. We are excited about the possibilities the future holds for this space.”
Omer and Fred Grgurev — two brothers who immigrated from Croatia — opened Scaletta in 1988 with two other partners. Omer was a chef and Fred was a professional soccer player who played for the New York Cosmos, later becoming one of the all-time leading scorers in indoor soccer. Scaletta has served “Nobel prize winners, US Cabinet Secretaries, and luminaries of the performing arts,” wrote Michelle Grgurev, daughter and niece of the owners. “Scaletta became entwined in the fabric of the community, serving as a venue for countless life events, from bar mitzvahs to weddings.”
The letter is below.
To Our Loyal Customers, Friends, and Neighbors:
It is with great sadness the we must announce March 25th will be our final day in business.
Over the past thirty years, we served some of the most wonderful, talented guests—many of whom made us feel like an extension of their families and not just their neighborhood restaurant. And while you were always our customers, we also considered many of you our friends.
We love our neighborhood, and are grateful that we were given the opportunity to be a part of this community. Thirty years is a commendable run for any business, especially a NYC restaurant. You might be wondering whether we were yet another victim of astronomical rents? Well, to eliminate any speculation, here’s the story.
Yes, our rent had steadily climbed up, but no, it wasn’t the ultimate reason for our closing. In fact, we were willing to stomach yet another rent increase, and invest in gut renovating our space and committing to another decade or more. No, the truth is we simply weren’t wanted. Our landlords coveted a shinier, fancier model in our place. To our landlord, as well as to many in NYC these days, a celebrity chef-owned chain, or private equity backed steakhouse sounds a lot sexier than a family-owned Italian joint.
We get it. However, when we look out at the incredible number of retail vacancies polluting our neighborhood, including one prominently empty space on our very corner, we question whether pursuing big name tenants is shrewd business or simply quixotic. Commercial vacancies have become a blight on our communities, and yet it’s not for a lack of viable business models. It’s simply short-sighted greed.
On behalf of our wonderful employees, we thank you for your patronage and your friendship. And since we’re not bitter (ok, maybe a little), we wish the restaurant investment fund that occupies our humble subterranean space nothing but success and healthy financial returns. Lord knows we can use another chopped salad joint around here.