Village Survivors

By Arthur Z. Schwartz

La BonBonnIere

Photos by Arthur Z. Schwartz.

Located in the West Village. Home of The Brunch. A meal that involves dressing up in your fanciest casual outfit and paying a minimum of $9 for a mimosa. It has its place in our society, and we are not here to knock it. Brunch has been good to us, many times over, but sometimes, we don’t want brunch. Sometimes we want breakfast at noon.

La Bonbonniere is a Village safe haven. The cash-only menu is filled with standard breakfast staples, without any meddling whatsoever. Eggs. Omelets. French toast. Pancakes. Muffins. Bottomless cups of coffee. Like we said, breakfast, not brunch. The food is good enough to attract crowds—weekend lines here are the norm, not the exception.

Best yet, food is served seconds after it is ordered and at this place, we really mean seconds. However, on the flip side, the waiters here don’t rush you. La Bonbonniere not only survived the Pandemic, they expanded into an outdoor shed, which keeps a lot more people happy.

Left Bank Books

Photo courtesy of Left Bank Books.

Left Bank Books has survived, in its post-2019 Greenwich Village location at 41 Perry Street.
If you remember the old shop, which closed its doors in 2016 after nearly 25 years, you knew Left Bank Books as an old-school, neighborhood used bookshop. Their store (which is also online; no need to buy from Amazon) is a more focused version of the original, with an emphasis on used and rare books that speak to the culture in a fresh, sometimes irreverent way. Owners Erik DuRon and Jess Kuronen tell us “We strongly identify with the artistic and cultural heritage of the Village, NYC’s “Left Bank,” and work every day reimagining what a small, well-curated Village bookshop can be.”

The bookshop showcases an eclectic selection from the 20th and 21st centuries (and occasionally earlier), encompassing literature, art, film, photography, fashion, architecture, design, music, theater, dance, children’s books, and New York City. It also hosts occasional events and exhibits, making it a destination for seasoned collectors, emerging enthusiasts, and curious newcomers the world over.

New Kids on the Block

Arthur and Sons New York Italian
38 8th Avenue

Photo courtesy of Arthur and Sons (left) and by Arthur Z. Schwartz (center, right)

Acclaimed Michelin Star Chef Joe Isidori opened the doors to his newest, and most personal, restaurant last July. The third-generation Italian-American chef draws on family traditions at his intimate old-school West Village restaurant, serving just the kind of fare that made us love Italian food in the first place—home-style pasta, pizza, meatballs, chicken parm, and more.

Arthur & Sons Italian pays homage to the NYC Italian-American scene. Its culture is rooted in ‘old school’ food, vibes and attitude and the Isidori family has been slinging Chicken Parm & Penne Alla Vodka since 1954. The bright, cheerful interior looks like it belongs in a glossy pop video, and you can listen to Frank Sinatra on the speakers while sitting in scalloped red leather booths. Manager Aram points out that the view is unique. The restaurant sits at the corner of 8th Avenue, Jane Street and West 4th Street and has windows on each street.

Matto Espresso
487 6th Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, west side

Photo by Arthur Z. Schwartz.

This is the 20th NYC location of a growing Espresso/coffee bar/pastry shop. Right now coffee is free. When the intro period ends the coffeeholic can get a large for just two dollars and fifty cents.

All of the items, in fact, from the chai lattes to the breakfast sandwiches, at Matto Espresso cost that amount. How the coffee chain, which started a few years back, has survived the coronavirus pandemic is anyone’s guess.

The two kingdoms, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, still reign. But according to reviews around the City there is more at Matto; not only the low prices but the care that accompanies them. As with practically all cafes throughout New York, however, the coronavirus pandemic hurt Matto Espresso. Only one store didn’t survive.

Matto’s affordability shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of quality, though. The company’s coffee comes from a particular region in Italy about an hour north of Milan and, while not as ubiquitous as fellow Italian coffee manufacturer, Lavazza, the coffee is strong yet smooth enough to satisfy New Yorkers. In addition to coffee, Matto offers a variety of snacks which are baked nightly in West Harlem and delivered before the store opens the next morning.

And, if it matters to you, everything is Kosher.