Three of Cups co-owner Anthony Barile closed the doors to his restaurant for good late Sunday night due to unsustainability after 26 years in the East Village. The Italian eatery opened in 1992 with a pizza style developed by Barile’s partner Santo Fazio who also co-owns Fazio’s of Bushwick. Fazio crafted his recipe when he was pizza chef for Two Boots and it reflects the style of his northern Sicilian roots. Barile worked with both of them in his younger days and their influence on his food is something he doesn’t shy away from mentioning.
Sunday’s last hurrah brought families celebrating the Easter and Passover holidays as well as groups of drinkers at the bar. Barile, who seats the restaurant’s tables himself, talked and reminiscing with his diners along with his wife and children, who grew up right before the eyes of many of the long-timers.
Applause rang out when the final pizza was served just before Three of Cups closed at midnight.
Server Mel, who had been there about a year, told me, “It’s rare that you get to work in a place where you get along with everybody and the saddest part is how much we’ll miss each other.” Mel said that Barile gave them short notice about the closure, but still took everyone aside individually and broke the news with decency. “We only had eight days to process how much we had been able to be ourselves while working here and how we really were a family.”
As the final minutes of the restaurant’s tenure ticked away, I sat down with Barile, who told me how much the neighborhood had changed. “When we opened the neighborhood was much more free and exciting, with all kinds of unique characters walking through Three of Cups. Now it’s growing stale around here and becoming less unpredictable. I miss it a lot and while younger folks might find the ‘new’ New York exciting, I would never trade the city I had for the city they have now.”
At present, Barile has no future plans other to open another restaurant. When I asked what he would take away from Three of Cups in his new life, he said, “It’s the wisdom from the people I let come in here to be free. I learned a lot from the diversity that walked through this place and I want to give them thanks and credit.”
After the window gates dropped over the dining rooms, the party continued downstairs in Three of Cups’ Lounge. Serving as a dive-bar juxtaposition against the fine decor upstairs, the Lounge is home to a tight rock n’ roll community that regularly hosted music and cabaret shows. People dressed in their Sunday best mixed with local Hells Angels members as DJ Rivercat spun a stack of 45s. When the beer ran out at 1am, the liquor began to run free.
Before leaving with his family, Barile came downstairs to bid farewell to his restaurant’s alter-ego, which bears a resemblance to his personal one. Before his pizza days, Barile was a DJ from Valley Stream during the height of Long Island’s new wave era; he told me that while “hard rock’s not my favorite type of music, the Lounge gave me a chance to show off my other interests and I’m happy that people could enjoy it with me.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post was revised to clarify the origin of the Three of Cups pizza recipe.