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World-famous for over a century for delectable Italian pastries and fresh, handmade breads, a new chapter of SoHo’s historic Vesuvio Bakery is being written — with a Hell’s Kitchen location opening this week on 10th Avenue.
Originally opened in 1920 and run by the Dapolito family for decades, Vesuvio Bakery was a SoHo go-to for traditional bomboloni (Italian donuts!), panzerotti (savory turnovers!), focaccia, and of course, savory artisan loaves until its much-mourned closure closure in 2009.
Now, after the revival of the original Prince Street outpost in 2020 and a brand-new Moynihan Train Hall location in 2021, the largest Vesuvio yet (and new baking headquarters for all its locations) has come to the 10th Avenue building that once housed Swedish coffee shop chain FIKA, joining fellow HK favorite Sullivan Street on the roster of cherished downtown bakery brands that have migrated north of 14th Street.
After the usual fits and starts of city construction, as well as an unfortunate kitchen fire, the newest Vesuvio —complete with light drenched, high ceilings and a window into the famous bakery’s kitchen — was finally able to soft-open this week, much to the delight of hungry West Siders. “The feedback has been very good,” said Adam Block, Vesuvio’s new owner, who is best known around the West Side as the operator of the popular farm-to-table PRINT restaurant and The Press Lounge rooftop bar within the Ink48 hotel on 11th Avenue (between W47/48th St).
“We love when people come in from the neighborhood and they’re so excited about what we’ve done. They’re like, ‘Oh my God, we were waiting for you to reopen,” he said. “We were waiting for something to come in here! We didn’t know what it was gonna be!’ We have people that have come in three times a day for the last three days,” he laughed.
So how exactly did the Prince Street staple reappear and make its way to the West Side? Vesuvio’s second act is thanks to the determination of Block, a Hell’s Kitchen restaurateur determined to preserve the charms of the original eatery. “We have gone through hell and back — pun intended — being in Hell’s Kitchen, but I’m a supporter of the neighborhood,” he said. Block had built an over 30-year career as a hospitality consultant at the firm he founded, Block & Associates, and hadn’t initially intended to become a restaurateur. Approached to operate the dining program within the Ink48 hotel ahead of its 2010 opening, he demurred, but “they kept pushing, and I fell in love with the project,” he said.
He knew that building a profile on 11th Avenue wouldn’t be easy. “At the time, it was all car dealerships, and we were opening something in the worst time in modern economic history on a corner of 48th Street and 11th Avenue which no one is coming over to,” said Block. “But I felt like we could create something over there that would be a draw.”
Block and his team were able to create both a successful breakfast, lunch and dinner program at PRINT, which also provides the in-room dining for Ink48, as well as a popular rooftop destination with frequent private event business at The Press Lounge. “By the fifth year, it was a $15 million-a-year business on that corner of 48th and 11th, and it employed nearly 200 people,” said Block. The expansion of new, far-West residential buildings, the new northern wing at Javits Center and increased construction at Hudson Yards continued to boost business as well.
Eleven years after Vesuvio closed, his team acquired the business and began the process of gut renovating — and recreating — the cherished SoHo bakery. “It needed a lot of TLC, and we gutted the whole thing down to the studs and the brick walls, and put it back in a way that I thought respected what the Dapolito family originally contemplated for it.”
In 2019, Block’s eye turned to the closed downtown Vesuvio, which had “a special place in my heart.” The green-painted bakery had barely changed since being opened in 1920 by Italian immigrants Nunzio and Jennie Depolito, then run by their son Anthony until he sold it shortly before his death in 2003. It survived in new hands until 2009 and, almost miraculously, escaped being turned into something entirely new when Block saw it. “It reminded me of when I first came to New York, and it was a nearly hundred-year old bakery,” he added.
After extensive renovation and fine-tuning — Block and his team even recreated Vesuvio’s signature green exterior paint, down to the shade specified by the Landmarks Preservation Commission — they were ready to open…on March 12, 2020. “The day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic,” said Block. Forced to close the Prince Street location, as well as PRINT (where the food for Vesuvio was being baked) and The Press Lounge, “nobody knew how long we’d have to be shut down.”
It became clear the “two-week pause” would be far longer than promised, “We didn’t abandon our city or turn our back on it,” said Block. His team navigated total shutdowns, takeout-only and social distancing requirements. “I tried to keep people employed, and it wasn’t easy. We worked through it,” he added.
When PRINT, The Press Lounge and Vesuvio reopened in July 2020, they were just getting back to their feet when Block was approached by Haim Chera, head of retail at Vornado Realty, about adding a Vesuvio location to the future Moynihan Train Hall in Penn Station. It was another risky bet — but “even though there were articles saying that New York was dead, New Yorkers are tenacious and they’re not going to let it sink,” said Block. “I felt that if people are fleeing the city, that’s their loss. I’m going to help try to do my part and get the city back.”
While planning the logistics of the Moynihan Vesuvio location, Block realized “I couldn’t do production based on the potential volume, because this location was going do anywhere from four to five times more than the location on Prince Street. It was one thing to do the baked goods out of PRINT — but this was a whole different animal,” he added. “I had to find — you know the famous Jaws cliché — a bigger boat,” said Block.
As it turned out, the bigger boat would sail into Hell’s Kitchen. Block and culinary director Sophia Schlieben came upon the closed FIKA headquarters at 824 10th Avenue (between W54/55th St) and knew they had found the new operations home of Vesuvio Bakery. The large, light-filled space had plenty of room for large-volume baking and a retail storefront. The challenge was to take the modern design and recreate the signature elements of Vesuvio — the recognizable bread wall, its clocks, and marble counters — and transition from what was a “WeWork-like atmosphere” into a convivial, community space.
“The hardest thing to do in any design is to put soul into a space, when it had a previous soul — or maybe was soulless — but had a previous design,” said Block. In addition to adding Vesuvio’s bespoke design touches, he elected to steer away from co-working-style coffee shop elements like WiFi — “we’re trying to get people to slow down and enjoy the moment.”
Block is proud of bringing the Vesuvio experience to Hell’s Kitchen. “It’s a palace for the neighborhood, and most importantly, a place that was indigenous to New York — and while not necessarily in that location, had a brand recognition,” he said. As for expanding further around the Big Apple: “Am I going to do more? I don’t know. I’m not looking to do more, but I wasn’t looking to do another one after I opened up the first one. It just kind of happened organically,” he laughed.
For now, Block and his team are excited to put down more roots in the neighborhood he once took a chance on — Hell’s Kitchen. “We’ve been trying to stay true to bringing what is so rich about New York — how neighborhoods can thrive. You don’t have to go two blocks to find all the things you need, from a dry cleaner to a bakery!”
Vesuvio Bakery is now open at 824 10th Avenue (between W54/55th St) from 7am to 7pm seven days a week. Follow Vesuvio on Instagram: @vesuviobakerynyc