"I keep thinking about all those nice people. Where are they going to get their bread?" —Rosa Morrone
Morrone's, one of New York's great Italian bread bakeries, closed its doors last month, and New York City (and the whole country for that matter) is a slightly less warm and hospitable place as a result.
The sign on the Morrone's door:
To our friend and customers:
For over 50 years, the Morrone family has been providing you with finest breads baked the old way, all natural and of course without preservatives. Along the way, our customers became our friends. Our neighborhood wasn't just a place to do business in, it was our home. Not a day goes by when someone doesn't stop in to say, "Hi Rosa," and just shoot the breeze. While our neighborhood will still be our home, it is with great regret, that we must now say goodbye to our customers and friends, as we close our bakery.
We wish to thank you, our friends and customers for your support and loyalty all these years.
Sincerely, The Morrone Family"
This is what I wrote about Morrone's in New York Eats: "In its seventy-year-old brick ovens, the Morrone family makes not only great Italian white, whole wheat, and semolina loaves in every shape imaginable but also terrific sandwich-sized baguettes and the city's best onion rolls. Morrone's prosciutto bread, filled with prosciutto, salami, and cheese, is out of this world, a meal in itself."
From the New York Times story reporting the closing:
Generations of customers, many of them barely living above the poverty level, often went home to find that Mrs. Morrone—for whom a baker's dozen always meant more than 13—had tossed into their bags a lot more bread than they had actually bought.
This scenario is being played out all over America. High-quality local food purveyors who have served their community for fifty years or more are going the way of the Edsel.
What does this say about the slowness of the Slow Food movement? Plenty!
With its closing, the city (and maybe the country's) best onion roll leaves us as well. Honest food purveyors like the Morrones are (figuratively) being replaced by the Panera Breads of the world, and serious eaters feel powerless to do anything about it. More than a few years ago, I went out to lunch with Patrick Martins, who was then the head of Slow Food USA. He asked me what Slow Food could do to get writers like me more involved. I told him the organization had to make its mission more relevant to Americans by tackling specific issues and actually doing something about them. I told him it should be Slow Food's mission to make sure the artisanal food makers—the bread bakers, the cheese and sausage makers of this country—have a secure future that will enable them to pass their knowledge and passion on to succeeding generations. I said that if he did that, a whole lot of folks would get involved.
Slow Food seems incapable of getting it together. It's an organization that's easy to get behind. Who among us doesn't believe in the Slow Food movement? But it's an organization that operates at 15,000 feet, focusing on macro global issues. The Southern Foodways Alliance does great work in this remedial vein I'm talking about, everything from oral histories to tours to rebuilding Willie Mae Seaton's restaurant in New Orleans. But shouldn't Slow Food USA step up in this regard and find a way to ensure the future of slow food makers in this country?
Otherwise we will all witness the demise of places all over the country like Morrone's Bakery with alarming regularity. Have you witnessed the demise of a Morrone's-like place where you live?
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