One of the last relics of old South Brooklyn — Joe’s Superette — closes

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Leo Coldanato, the owner of Joe’s Superette, lost his fight with bone cancer on Wednesday, one day after we posted this story about the closure of his beloved Smith Street store, Joe’s Superette.

Prosciutto balls, we hardly knew ye.

Joe’s Superette Deli, a beloved slice of old Italian-American Carroll Gardens, has closed after 50 mouthwatering years on Smith Street, the latest iconic food joint to shutter in a rapidly changing borough.

This time, the villain isn’t high rents or gentrification.

Owner Leo Coldanato, who has owned the store since 1985, has been ill for some time, and his remaining employees say they can’t handle the workload.

According to one neighboring storeowner, Coldanato is suffering from bone cancer.

“That makes me sad. He was such a nice man,” said Carroll Gardens customer, Lynne Sachs. “He would always be cooking in the back, so it added this nice atmosphere.”

The closing of the store is a disaster for fans of its famous prosciutto balls.

“Our legacy will be those balls,” said Joe Ranieri, Coldanato’s long-time friend who helped out around the deli, which was between Carroll and Second streets.

“They come from all over to get them. Some people call us from California and Florida and want us to ship them down. We use to have one firm’s boss that would come in each holiday and get eight dozen of each type of ball. He’s going to miss this.”

The owner’s health may be the main cause of the demise of Joe’s, but the store is also a victim of a changing Carroll Gardens, which transformed from Brooklyn’s “Little Italy” to just another neighborhood of young upper-class professionals in little more than two generations.

“The neighborhood is changing so much,” said resident Jake Carling. “Honestly, five years from now people are going to be like, ‘Joe’s who?’ That’s just the neighborhood, it’s in flux.”

Updated 5:24 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Memories from Brooklyn says:
The end of an era. Joe's Superette was one of the last relics of a different time on Smith Street that somehow made time stop. Their riceballs and sandwiches will always remain as a delicious memory. Best wishes to Leo for good health and for all associated with Joe's. You brought smiles.
May 18, 2011, 6:47 am
Rosemarie from originally Carroll Gardens says:
I still come to Joe's for his rice balls and prosciuotto balls and his sandwiches, wow he will be truly missed. And to all the guys who work there, a really nice bunch of guys. I am praying and wish the best for Leo, he is a really nice person. get well soon, Rosemarie, Now from Bay Ridge
May 19, 2011, 7:05 am
Soured from Red Hook says:
Walk in, select the bread of choice, stand in line as you slowly make your way past all the possible options to the ordering station and have your sandwich made to order. T'was a beautiful and simple operation, and yes the prosciuotto balls kicked-ass even if they were just a tiny bit chilled in the center when these guys were busy. It's a shame that a well established gem like Joe's gets written up when the doors are shuttered, while any new establishments is certain to get some ink by The Paper. Wishing all associated with Joe's the best, God Bless.
May 19, 2011, 7:46 am
Melissa from The Old Carroll Gardens says:
To Jake Carling who made the comment at the end of the article "Honestly, 5 yrs from now people are going to be like Joe's who?" That will never happen if you are originally from this neighborhood. You have no idea how much Joe's Supperette is going to be missed and will be remembered FOREVER. Anyone from here like Iam will tell you the same. RIP Leo and best of luck to Louie. The neighborhood will not be the same without Joe's. We have lost yet another piece of our childhood.
May 19, 2011, 9:50 am
Jennifer from Old Carroll Gardens says:
I was born and raised on Union St. and loved Joe's..I now live in Az. and usually make my way to NY to visit family and of course eat..And my first stop was always Joe's for my sandwich and my kids loved the lil rich balls and prosciutto balls. Joe's Superette will surely be missed by me and my kids...:)
May 19, 2011, 11:25 am
Michael from Carroll Gardens says:
I've lived in the neighborhood for roughly a decade. I've been coming down to the neighborhood since I started dating my wife 2 decades ago. Joe's was truly one of the last places that made you still feel like a piece of old Brooklyn was within arms reach.

Whenever a new friend moved into the area, or you just wanted to turn a visitor on to something special and unique to Carroll Gardens. This is where I would bring them.

Melissa is right in saying, that to the truly initiated this place will be missed tremendously and will be spoken of for decades to come with great fondness. You don't have to have been born in the neighborhood. Just have a respect and appreciation for the way things once were.

Unfortunately, I believe that Jake Carling also has a point. The area has changed so much in the past 20 years. People move in and out of the hood so frequently, that I would not be surprised if the majority of residents will not know, or recall this place in 5 years time, if that long.

Salute to Leo Caldanato and all of his employees. And let's hope, or better yet insist, that another Starbucks or similar corporate entity does not get it's hands on this piece of real estate.
May 19, 2011, 11:30 am
Mark from Brooklyn says:
I have shopped at this store my entire life...49 years. I was pushed in there in a carriage before I was able to walk in. My mother would give me a handwritten note of items to buy. I remember when Leo just started working for Joe. And when Frank, who owns his own business, was an employee of Joe's. I will truly miss Leo. He was more than a friend. I know God has a special place in Heaven where Leo took his secret recipe to. Rest In Peace Leo. I miss you already.
May 19, 2011, 3:44 pm
Richard D from Port Washington says:
My cousin Pellegrino (Leo, Lino to most of you) was a hard working man with a modest ego. He truly loved making his bite sized snacks, and took great pride when his customers enjoyed the end product. "Lino"will be missed and never forgotten. Thanks everyone for your kind words.
Richard D
May 20, 2011, 9:35 am
Rick from South Brooklyn says:
Been going there since my freshman yr in HS 1976. 35 yrs ago used to get a sandwich on way too school for lunch everyday when Joe was there. Also known Leo for many many yrs. He was a good man and a friend to all. RIP Leo.Old South Brooklyn has lost another icon. The boys from the club on 3rd Ave send there respect.
May 20, 2011, 11:17 am
Maryanne from Carroll Gardens says:
I remember when Joe worked in Pete's on the corner of Carroll St. and then opening his own store. Joe sported a moustache before they became popular in the 70's and treated everyone like family--only the best: food and hospitality. Then Frank's Deli opened. No offense to Frank's, but I just went there when I was in a super hurry and hoped no one from Joe's noticed.
Louie, you should be proud to have served your so long. It was a haven for people transitioning from work to home. Hard working people who knew each other's name and the number of their house. (I was from Number 8, Second St. and my grandfather owned Dugan's Bar & Grill).
May 20, 2011, 1:47 pm
Maria from Bay Ridge says:
What a shame, another great loss in a great neighborhood. Sending all our respects from the young to the old timers.
May 21, 2011, 11:36 pm
Richie Conti from Carroll Gardens says:
Joe's Superette was a neighborhood institution. People came for all over for his sandwishes and later for the infamous prosciutto balls.
Leo was a real good friend of mine and I knew Joe too but it was Leo who kept the store going while Joe collected the enormous rents all these years.
Leo and I basically grew up together and he passes his recipe down to me as well and I now from time to time make the balls here in Florida.
I tried years ago to get Leo to leave Brooklyn to come here to Florida but he chose to stay there instead for his nieces and nephews and customers.
I just heard the news a few minutes ago and I am saddened and I am sure Leo is now in a better plcae where he will not have to works as hard as he did.
He will be missed for sure not only for his treats and culinary masterpieces but because he was truly a nice guy !!
God Bless You Leo May You Rest in Peace.
May 23, 2011, 10:34 am
Richie Conti from Boca Raton Florida says:
Now I am living in Boca Raton Florida but for years I lived in good old Carroll Gardens and in spite of what this author may think it is and always will be Brooklyn's Little Italy which is still alive and well . Surely we have lost a few of it's founders but there is still plenty of life , Italian Life left here for sure !!
Forgetaboutit !! We are here to stay !!!
May 24, 2011, 4:59 pm

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