Places that Matter

Vesuvio Bakery (now Birdbath)

A reminder of Prince Street's past as an Italian neighborhood
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Few hints remain that Prince Street, now in the heart of the trendy SoHo district, was once an Italian shopping street. The Vesuvio Bakery is a lone survivor--its bread has been a neighborhood staple since 1920.

With a layer of cracked green paint on the trim around its big display window, the Vesuvio Bakery storefront is still an unapologetic antique amidst SoHo's glossy boutiques, galleries and upscale restaurants. And, until its 2003 transformation to a bakery-café, the simple store contained only a counter, a scale, and a long-discontinued model cash register. A shuttered, swinging door led to the baking facilities in the back.

Anthony Dapolito, whose parents founded the bakery, recalled a time when every apartment building in this neighborhood had a storefront--usually Italian--at its base. He worked at his father's bakery most of his life, since the days when he woke up on cold mornings at five o'clock to deliver bread from a horse-drawn wagon. In those days, Vesuvio's was in the midst of a largely Italian neighborhood that stretched along the western edge of SoHo, near to the even larger Little Italy that lay east of Broadway.