Posts Tagged ‘Bohemian Greenwich Village’

A vintage 1903 espresso machine at a Village cafe

December 21, 2012

CaffereggiodominicparisiSure Starbucks was the first retailer to mass market cappuccinos, lattes, and other espresso concoctions.

But it was Caffe Reggio, a dimly lit place with an old-school Bohemian atmosphere at 113 Macdougal Street, which brought the first espresso machine to America in 1927, introducing New York to Italian coffee drinks.

The huge machine, built in 1903, is displayed like artwork in the cafe. It’s a shiny, nickel-plated beauty with many mysterious spigots. And there’s a colorful story and character behind it.

“That machine represents the life savings of Dominic Parisi, it’s his pride, his occupation,” reports a New York Herald Tribune article from 1945 that can be read in full on Caffe Reggio’s website.

Caffereggioespressomachine[Above: Parisi with his prized machine, from cafereggio.com]

“Dominic was a barber until his sight dimmed. Forty years he held the razor—it’s the trade of his family,” states the Tribune.

“When he could no longer barber, he got together his savings, $1,000, and sent them to Italy for the machine magnificent, topped with an angel, its base surrounded with dragons.”

Another article, this one uncredited, explains, “Dominic spent his life savings of $1,000 to import the espresso from Italy. Only he is allowed to touch it.

“He rubs it with loving care. With it he makes a strong black cup of coffee or cappuccino (a marvelous blend of strong coffee, steaming milk, and cinnamon).

“Real coffee lovers haunt his cafe. They are all ‘my friends’ to Dominic, who never takes his hat off because, ‘Excuse me—it makes me sneeze.'”

Caffereggiophoto

The espresso machine isn’t the only antique at Caffe Reggio. This little curio shop of a coffee house boasts of “a dramatic 16th century painting from the school of Caravaggio and an antique bench which once belonged to the Medici family.”

The website has lots of photos from the 1920s through today of celebrities, locals, and bohemians hanging out at Reggio.

Romany Marie’s bohemian cafes in the Village

April 4, 2011

If you were a struggling artist in the early 1900s, Romany Marie (left) was your ally.

Born in Moldavia, the former anarchist came to Greenwich Village in the early 1900s, when the neighborhood was gathering steam as a hotbed of radical politics and artistic creativity.

For the next several decades she ran a series of dimly lit tea rooms and taverns offering gypsy music, cheap eats, and a salon-like vibe where ideas flowed freely.

Oh, and she sometimes fed artists for free when they couldn’t afford a meal. No wonder she attracted such a devoted following of Village bohemians.

John Sloan’s famous sketch, “Romany Marye’s in Christopher Street, 1922″ (above) was drawn at her 20 Christopher Street restaurant.

Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote her famous “my candle burns at both ends” line there.

Romany Marie also ran establishments at 15 Minetta Street, 49 Grove Street, and 64 Washington Square South at Thompson Street.

She died in 1961, when the Village still had its bohemian rep but was a very different place.

The Village Voice blog Runnin’ Scared reran her obituary here.

“Are you still alive, Djuna?”

May 15, 2009

That’s what e.e. cummings reportedly shouted out his window on Patchin Place, the West Village gated alley where he and fellow writer Djuna Barnes were neighbors for many overlapping years.

Djunabarnes1925Cummings resided in a house at #4, while Djuna had a studio on the second floor at #5 across the way. She lived like a recluse, so occasionally cummings checked up on her. 

Barnes had been a true Bohemian, moving to Greenwich Village in the teens and advocating free love, sleeping with both men and women. After years spent in Europe (where the photo at left was taken in 1925), she moved to Patchin Place in 1940.

And she never left. Barnes made her home in that one-room flat for 42 years, her $49.50 per month rent paid for by a stipend.

Djunabarnes1962She barely published anything for the rest of her life, but her literary rep grew, and she spent her later years chasing away fans who rang her bell wanting to discuss her work. She died in 1982.

Today, a plaque commemorates cummings’ home at #4. But no plaque marks #5, even though Barnes was a literary heavyweight. Her 1936 novel Nightwood was lauded by T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. 

The photo at right, of Barnes posing beside the Patchin Place gate, was taken in 1962 by e.e. cummings’ wife, poet Marion Morehouse.


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