“It’s been coming for years… we are a dying breed,” said Lucy DiPietro Manzella, owner of DiPietro Foods Italian market, on her family’s decision to shut the business’ doors after 41 years at its Springfield Avenue location, just across from the Hilton Library.
The store’s last day will be Saturday, Sept. 10.
As Manzella and her uncle, Alfonso, recently prepared a customer’s sandwich order (the Jennifer: prosciutto, housemade mozzarella and roasted peppers on an Italian roll), she explained that the family decided to sell the building because they wanted a smaller, more manageable space in which to reopen.
“Things change,” she said. “You get older, it gets harder.” Although they had hoped to have a new space before closing the current one, they are still optimistic they will find a new location. “God willing, we will find a new space soon.”
Known for its impressive stock of imported Italian products including a variety of pastas, San Marzano tomatoes and more as well as its popular homemade ravioli, mozzarella, sausages and sandwiches, DiPietro’s has been a staple in the community since its opening by recent Italian immigrants Benito and Josephine DiPietro in 1975. The everyday operation of the store was eventually passed down to their daughter Lucy. Benito passed away in 1985, but Josephine and her brother Alfonso are still closely involved with the business.
DiPietro has remained open even as it watched other authentic Italian markets shut down around it. “People go to a big box store [for convenience], but sacrifice quality,” said Manzella, who noted that many of the wholesalers DiPietro used to sell to have also disappeared.
Since Manzella posted on Facebook in late August that the store would be closing, the response from regular customers has been overwhelming and gratifying. “We keep hearing, ‘You’re going to make me cry!’,” she said.
In that post, she wrote: “A tremendous thank you, as well, to Maplewood — it is truly our home. We feel very blessed and fortunate to have been a part of this wonderful community for so long — four generations, in fact!”
“DiPietro’s is more than an Italian food market, it is a piece of Maplewood’s history and beloved by all who are customers,” said Julie Doran of the Springfield Avenue Partnership. “We remain hopeful that the family will find the perfect new location for one of our true gems.”
(Earlier in August the Maplewood Planning Board approved plans for Elite Properties, the developer who constructed Maplewood Crossing, to construct a 30-unit apartment complex in the DiPietro’s building.)
The family is sad about leaving the space they have called home for four decades, which Manzella said is the best location in Maplewood. She confessed she would feel somewhat lost not being able to go into the cozy, wood-paneled shop that has seen few changes since 1975. Uncle Alfonso wonders where he will drink his morning espresso.
“My mom and I have seen customers and kids grow up and go to college,” said Manzella. “Our customers became like family.” Glancing out the large plate glass windows that line the front of the store, she mused, “We had the pleasure of watching the seasons change.”
Stay tuned on a new location for DiPietros. In the meantime, stop by one last time to share a memory, taste some mozzarella, and see a piece of Maplewood — and Italian-American — history before it disappears forever.
DiPietro, 1701 Springfield Ave., Maplewood, NJ 07040, (973) 762-4077