After 35 years of serving high quality food to Greenpointers, Carmine’s Original Pizza has served its last slice.
On Saturday, July 11, Carmine Notaro, the owner of the eponymous pizzeria, turned out the lights for the last time, at his Norman Avenue shop, which will be missed by many of his longtime customers as well as the neighborhood as a whole.
After arriving in the U.S., Notaro worked in construction. Soon after, he began assisting his brother in a bakery on Graham Avenue, the Williamsburg landing spot for so many Italian immigrants who set up shops along the thoroughfare.
It was while working at the bakery that a friend recommended that he open his own pizza shop.
Instead, Notaro purchased the pizzeria in 1980, when the shop was just called Original Pizza, turning it into a business that thrived for over three decades.
“I’ve gone there since the place opened,” said John Fumai, a lifelong Greenpoint resident and a faithful customer of Carmine’s. “The quality of the food was great and the prices were more than reasonable. His food was like it was home cooked, not something mass produced and he always made people feel welcome. Like we were part of a family.”
For me, a lifelong resident of Greenpoint and a customer of Carmine’s Original Pizza, the establishment was more than just a place to grab a bite. Each time I exited the G-train at Norman Avenue, the smell of Italian food, and the workers at Carmine’s waving at me, reminded me I was home.
So why the closure after all the success and admiration?
“Well, three decades of backbreaking work can take its toll on you,” said Notaro. “I’m old and I’m tired. I want to retire and be able to stay at home and relax. I have family back in Italy I want to visit.”
For Notaro, the work has taken not just a physical toll but an emotional one as well. It wasn’t just a restaurant for him. It was truly a means to serve the community.
When a homeless person stopped by the shop, Notaro quietly placed a slice of pizza in the oven and handed it to the person on a plate, never once shrugging or asking them to leave.
Notaro’s pizzas were a favorite amongst the North Brooklyn Homeless Taskforce.
“On many occasions, we reached out to Carmine, usually around 3 p.m., and by 6 p.m., he would have his worker deliver donated food,” said Pat McDonnell, the president of the North Brooklyn Homeless Taskforce, who for several years has been running a nightly respite bed program for the homeless in Greenpoint. “He’s been a big service to us and the community, and we have a lot of love for him.”
Neighbors first learned of Carmine’s impending closure when there were signs posted on the windows of the shop announcing Notaro’s retirement a few weeks ago.
A handwritten note on the bottom of those signs read, “Visit Carmine’s Original Pizza to leave Carmine a message.”
The page was instantly flooded with words of appreciation and well wishes.
“Gonna miss you Carmine!!! I really can’t remember a time when you weren’t there. Some of the best memories of my teenage years involve standing in front of your store! Thank you for all the wonderful memories and great meals!!! Enjoy your retirement you deserve it.”
Leave your own memory ofCarmine’s at https://plus.google.com/115603583165151465331/about?gl=us&hl=en.