New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: De Robertis Pastry Shoppe

Frank Mastropolo

'This is like my living room.'

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Photo by Frank Mastropolo

De Robertis Pastry Shoppe closed in 2014 after more than a century serving Italian coffee, pastries, cookies and ices. Four generations of the De Robertis family worked at the pasticceria since it opened in 1904. John De Robertis, whose grandfather Paolo started the business, described the store’s early days. “They made pignoli, the seeded cookies, and they made coffee, cappuccino and as refrigeration came in they started making pastries, cannoli. Then as time went by they started making lemon ice. They catered to the Italians because that’s what everybody around here was used to.

“The heyday of the store’s popularity was in the ’60s. As soon as church was over, whatever mass people went to, they all piled in here. We were packed. They came in for coffee and cannoli, sfogliatelle, whatever.”

De Robertis says that the glorious neon sign, which spans the width of the building, was probably erected in the 1940s. When Black Seed Bagels opened in the space in 2015, its owners retained the De Robertis sign and restored the imperfect tiling on the floors and walls, the tin ceilings, and the original ornate barrier at the back of the store.

“We’re not here to erase history,” said Black Seed co-owner Noah Bernamoff.

“We never really had people come over to our apartment because we were always working,” said De Robertis. “My father said, ‘This is like my living room. I can’t have people over my house because I’m always here so this is my living room.’ And people like that. It’s that love that you can’t get from a chain store.”

When the facade of the building was renovated, the De Robertis sign was moved to the roof.

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Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past

New York, NY
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