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End of Marriage Means the End of Famous New York Eatery

It took a while to get the full story, but when legendary Greenwich Village restaurant Da Silvano closed in December, there was more at play than an owner who was tired of fighting the economics of New York’s food industry.

While initial reports noted the out of control rent for the building the establishment had been in since 1975, and ongoing lawsuits and labor disputes with current and former staff, it turns out that the end of Da Silvano was also influenced by the end of the marriage of its owner, Silvano Marchetto, 70, to his soon to be ex-wife, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, 55.

It’s hard to make the case that the pending divorce was the sole cause for the celebrated eatery’s demise, but taken in the context of recent events, the Marchetto-Acocella split may have been the straw that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back.

Marchetto, who is widely credited with introducing authentic Italian cuisine to a country most familiar with spaghetti and meatballs back in the 1970s when he emigrated here from Florence, Italy, has faced accelerating costs and challenges over the last few years.

In 2015, he was sued by a group of waiters who claimed that he routinely engaged in wage theft, paying them for fewer hours than they worked and forcing them to split tips with management.

The suit was eventually settled for $300,000.

And his rent, as he said, has indeed exploded as the old neighborhood transitioned into being today’s neighborhood.

When he opened Da Silvano’s doors in 1975, Marchetto paid the comfortable sum of $500 a month to use the space. By the time it closed, he was on the hook for a $41,000 a month rent payment.

But just as many factors played into the shuttering of the landmark, Da Silvano’s played host to some of New York’s most famous personalities, seated alongside tourists and regular New Yorkers.

The place developed a vibe so unique and an atmosphere so enticing that a New York Times restaurant review from the 2000s that compared one staple dish to dog food couldn’t dent the appeal.

Situated just blocks from Soho’s thriving art scene, the restaurant quickly developed a reputation as a place to see and be seen by artists, gallery owners, and wealthy art buyers.

Soon after, celebrities found their way there, indulging in boozy late night escapades and even some notably bad public behavior.

In 2004, England’s Princess Michael of Kent was taking in a meal and felt that a nearby table of black patrons was being too loud and boisterous for her tastes.

She famously approached them and ordered them, “Go back to the colonies!”

Da Silvano’s served as a sort of clubhouse for celebrities of all stripes.

Celebrity chef Mario Batali said the space offered “some of the best people-watching in town,” with frequent sightings of notables like Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Madonna, Hilary Swank, Uma Thurman, Barry Diller, and Anna Wintour.

At its 40th anniversary party in 2015, Salman Rushdie, Patti Smith, Marla Maples, and Monica Lewinsky were in attendance to help celebrate the occasion.

Marchetto himself ran Da Silvano’s through the sheer force of his immense personality.

With his uniquely broken and heavily Italian-inflected approach to English, he fluffed the egos of his famous clientele and created an iconic, and iconoclastic, space where locals and visitors could share the experience of buzzing, eclectic, immigrant-infused New York.

Marchetto’s penchant for rivalries was nearly as famous as his food.

Batali, in the New York Post, lamented the closing of Da Silvano’s, explaining that Marchetto was, “one of the first guys to bring real Italian food to New York. Not spaghetti and meatballs, but the real Tuscan food he knew and loved.”

The same exacting approach to authenticity played out in his relations with his staff, where he was known to spot and groom talent, and then frequently turn on the same individuals when they struck out on their own.

The stories of the heroes and villains of the Da Silvano’s universe were nearly as entertaining as the place itself.

While the financial explanations of Da Silvano’s closure were plausible, soon after the surprise ending of the four-decade-long party, news broke that Marchetto’s wife of 12 years, New Yorker cartoonist and graphic novelist Marissa Acocella Marchetto, had filed for divorce.

According to Page Six, it was her lawyers’ demand for a full accounting of the restaurant’s financial condition that prompted the sudden, permanent closure.

Marchetto is reportedly even considering returning to Italy, where he owns two homes, full time.

There were signs pointing to this end as well.

In November of 2016, the pair put their home on the market for $3.75 million. The co-op on West Houston, which has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a top-of-the-line kitchen, two terraces, a Jacuzzi tub, and incredible views, is also just minutes from the restaurant itself.

Marchetto and Acocella had lived in the space for eight years, and Marchetto had lived in the building for more than three decades.

The pair claimed to be downsizing, and the apartment, which had combined several units when they built it out, was too large for their new picture of life.

This is probably true, in a roundabout way.

What at first looked like a puzzling plan to move looks, in retrospect, like the first act of a marital split.

Marchetto’s attorneys strongly denied that the pending divorce was the cause of the end of Da Silvano’s, but with rumors that he plans to abandon the city he’s contributed so much to, it’s hard to believe that the action played no role.

And for New York and New Yorkers, the Sixth Avenue space where history and memories were made was suddenly vacant, taking a piece of the city’s character with it.

Most divorces don’t change the culture of a place, but divorce always changes a person’s life. It’s important to consider how your life and finances will change during a divorce.

If your marriage in Queens is ending, get experienced help to bring you through in the best circumstances possible.

We can help with filing for child custody in New York, as well as modifications to your NY divorce order, and many other issues that can arise.

At Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino, our attorneys have the tools and insight to deliver the best outcome for you.

Call us today at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation.