Mastellone’s last day: Beloved Carroll Gardens Italian grocery closes

Mastellone’s last day: Beloved Carroll Gardens Italian grocery closes
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Out with the old and a battle with J. Crew.

Mastellone Italian Deli, a beloved Carroll Gardens grocery store, is closing today, making way for an embattled Cobble Hill grocer to open a second location.

Court Street’s Mastellone deli is closing its doors after some 80 years of serving up homemade mozzarella and Italian meats. When the shutters open next, the store on the corner of Degraw Street will be an outpost of Pacific Green Gourmet Food, the green grocer battling its landlord’s bid to replace it with national clothing retailer J. Crew.

Mastellone’s proprietor, Vincent Mastellone, said that the move to close had nothing to do with market pressures but that he has simply had enough.

“I’ve been here for a long time and it was just time to close up,” Mastellone said.

The timing worked well for Billy Solmaz, a co-owner of Pacific Green. Mastellone reached out to the fellow grocer after hearing about the Cobble Hill store’s rental woes. Solmaz is currently gearing up to sue his landlord, who he says is unlawfully kicking out Pacific Green to roll out a welcome mat for J. Crew. Mastellone said that when he heard news of the power play, he immediately called Solmaz to let him know that the storefront he owns would soon be open for a new tenant.

Solmaz jumped at the chance, but he plans to manage the two stores and fight his current landlord, not cut and run.

“If something happens with [the Cobble Hill store] we will make sure we have a second store,” Solmaz said. “We are not going anywhere soon.”

End of an era: Longtime butcher James Raffaele of Carroll Gardens’ beloved Mastellone Italian Deli won’t be churning out any more dried salami at the grocery store after it closes for good on Wednesday.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The Turkey-born grocer said that, when he opened Pacific Green in 2000, he signed a 15-year lease. But in May his landlord told him that the store has until the end of the year to move out, according to Solmaz.

The new grocery store will be called Big Apple Gourmet and is expected to open in two months. It will carry a variety of produce but it will not include anything like Mastellone’s meats or deli counter.

Mastellone fans were upset to learn that another treasured Carroll Gardens institution has bitten the dust.

“It’s sad to hear another one of the neighborhood icons is going to close,” said Carroll Gardens native Kristina Esposito, who for years has gone to the old-fashioned grocery to buy homemade chicken cutlets.

Mastellone said that he knew loyal customers would be devastated by the closure, but that his 27-year-old son’s decision not to take over the business sealed the deal.

“It was getting to be too much for me,” Mastellone said.

Pacific Green’s landlord could not be reached for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

Saying goodbye: Longtime Mastellone shopper Michael Caiafa is sad to part with the no-frills Italian grocery.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini