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Alleva Dairy in Little Italy is facing closure due to a pandemic

That’s a lot of cheese!

A Manhattan deli believed to be America’s oldest cheese shop is at risk of closing after failing to pay $509,106 in rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1892, Alleva Dairy at 188 Grand Street was sued by its landlord for allegedly owing rent arrears over the last several years.

The monthly rent under the Little Italy store’s lease is $23,756, according to court records.

The lawsuit, filed by landlord Jerome G. Stabile III Realty in Manhattan Superior Court, seeks “permission to evict you from the property in question if you fail to pay the monetary judgment.”

Alleva has also suffered from the closure of nearby restaurants, which regularly spend thousands of dollars a month on their delicious Italian cheeses like mozzarella, provolone and ricotta, current owner Karen King said.

“Alleva has been fighting for his life for the last 2 1/2 years,” King said.

King and her husband John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia – a relative of the founding Alleva family with roots in Benevento, Italy – bought the cream cheese factory in 2014 to keep it in business.

Alleva Dairy is located at 188 Grand Street in Little Italy, NYC.
Alleva Dairy is located at 188 Grand Street in Little Italy, NYC.
Christian Johanneston

Ciarcia, the “unofficial mayor of Mulberry Street” and guest actress on The Sopranos who brought in actor friend Tony Danza to partner in Alleva, died in 2015.

Karen King assumed full ownership of the company after his death.

“Tony could save us, but I’m not asking him to save us,” King said of Danza.

At a court hearing on Friday, she and her attorney, Domenick Napoletano, proposed a Gouda plan – offering to immediately raise $250,000 and pay off the remaining debt over the life of the lease.

Salamis hang from the ceiling of Alleva Dairy on the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets, the oldest Italian cheese shop in America.
Alleva’s landlord filed a lawsuit against the owners of the cheese shop, asking for “permission to evict you from the offending property if you fail to pay the monetary judgment.”
VWPics via AP Pictures

But the landlord’s attorney turned down the offer, King’s attorney said.

“It’s ridiculous. Most landlords would agree to this proposal,” Napoletano said.

King added, “I put my life savings into Alleva. I’m not walking away from it. We bought Alleva to save it.”

She said the landlord refuses to consider the devastating impact the ongoing pandemic is having on Alleva and other Little Italy businesses. A mainstay of the neighborhood, Forlini’s restaurant, recently announced it was closing for good after 79 years in business.

Cheese in the Alleva window.
Little Italy has shrunk in recent years due in part to rising rents and changing demographics.
Christopher Sadowski for the NY Post

“There were no tourists in Little Italy during the pandemic. Nobody came here. No one expected the pandemic to last this long,” King said.

During her tenure, King said she updated Alleva’s website and expanded takeout and catering services to compensate for the loss of foot traffic.

“Thank you God. I got a lot of new clients,” she said.

Before COVID, King planned to expand the premises and open a coffee shop on the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets. She also built a new kitchen and hired a chef to offer more meals and was working on a branding and distribution plan as the health crisis brought the Big Apple to a halt.

Cheese and canned olive oil at Alleva Dairy on the corner of Grand Street and Mulberry Street is the oldest Italian cheese shop in America,
Karen King said she is not giving up on Alleva despite the lawsuit.
Chuck Pefley/VWPics via AP Pictures

Alleva now sells baked bread with broccoli, meatloaf, chicken marsala, lasagna, and pasta dishes including spaghetti carbonara, among other Italian delights.

“We’re struggling to get some time to pay,” she said. “That’s all we ask.”

Ellen Stabile Bench, who identified King as the real estate company’s landlady, told The Post, “I really don’t need to speak to you.”

Little Italy has shrunk in recent years due in part to rising rents and changing demographics.

Meanwhile, Italian-American civic activists have complained that New York’s elected officials have overlooked Little Italy compared to its growing neighbor Chinatown. They criticized Chinatown’s $20 million award for failing to mention Little Italy.

In a gesture of fence repairs, Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced the award of a $1 million grant to complete construction of the new Italian-American Museum on Mulberry Street.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/10/little-italys-alleva-dairy-faces-closure-due-to-pandemic/ Alleva Dairy in Little Italy is facing closure due to a pandemic

JACLYN DIAZ

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