DUMBO

Legendary L&B Spumoni Gardens rumored to open in DUMBO this fall

Brooklyn’s Sicilian-style pizza fans crossing their fingers

July 5, 2024 Mary Frost
Behind this green shed is a new sidewalk. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
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Reader Lizzie Kirshenbaum wrote to the Brooklyn Eagle in February 2024 asking, “What is taking so long for the new L&B Spumoni Gardens location to open in DUMBO. The restaurant announced their new location in June 2019 and nearly five years later, still nothing and yet the storefront has appeared ready for at least two and a half years …. What is the story here?!”

DUMBO — The moment Brooklyn’s Sicilian-style pizza fans have dreamed about might actually be within sight.

Work at the DUMBO outpost of L&B Spumoni Gardens, under construction at 46 Old Fulton St., is progressing after numerous snags, and the long-awaited moment for devotees of the thick, square pizza slices could come as soon as September, a supervisor at the site said.

It’s been one issue after another with the NYC Department of Buildings since work on the restaurant portion of the structure began in 2019, the contractor said. The latest stumbling block was a fenced staircase that jutted out onto the public sidewalk. DOB said it had to go, so workers recently ripped it out and laid down a new sidewalk in its place.

The top three floors of 46 Old Fulton St. include more than 14,000-square feet of residential space. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
The top three floors of 46 Old Fulton St. include more than 14,000-square feet of residential space. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

The removal of the staircase was just the latest hurdle in the long reconstruction saga which has been going on since the first permits were filed for renovations on the cellar, first floor and roof.

Work included new interior walls, plumbing fixtures, cooking equipment, an HVAC unit, kitchen exhaust hood and more, but progress has been bumpy. Numerous violations were issued by DOB in 2019 and 2020, and the contractor was slapped with at least one stop-work order. More than 70 documents have been filed with DOB since the first application. In March 2023 the property manager, listed as William Radmin (who is also the building’s developer, according to YIMBY), hired a new general contractor, new permits were issued, and plans were refiled, with the latest renewal granted April 10, 2024.

Why all the fuss about a pizzeria? 

For the uninitiated, the legendary L&B Spumoni Gardens at 2725 86th St. in Gravesend, owned by the Barbati family, has been in business for more than 80 years. The restaurant logo features a horse-drawn carriage, illustrating the original spumoni and pizza deliveries by founder Ludovico Barbati  in 1939.

The old-time Sicilian-style pizza and pasta restaurant is the stuff of memories for residents who grew up in southern Brooklyn. Some call it “a sacred destination” for pizza lovers. Fanatics on Facebook beg the company to ship their pizzas to Florida. Some very nostalgic former Brooklynites have been known to fly in just to eat a slice. 

That explains the excitement in western Brooklyn when the restaurant announced in 2019 they would be opening a second location in DUMBO (though that section of Old Fulton Street is technically in Brooklyn Heights). 

Signs with the L&B Spumoni Gardens logo, old fashioned lantern lighting and attractive lettering popped up on the 46 Old Fulton St. storefront. An enthusiastic L&B Spumoni Facebook post on July 22, 2020, said, “Coming Soon to Dumbo Brooklyn this fall… Our new pizza ovens have arrived and we are getting excited! Here’s a sneak peek!” A photo showed a bank of 30 pizza ovens.

Brooklyn fans will travel miles for L&B Spumoni Gardens’ square Sicilian-style pizza. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
Brooklyn fans will travel miles for L&B Spumoni Gardens’ square Sicilian-style pizza. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

There was another false start in 2021. 

“One day in August 2021, they were handing out free slices out front, and an opening seemed to be in the cards. Didn’t happen,” one Fulton Ferry local, who did not want to be identified, told the Brooklyn Eagle. 

Fans couldn’t wait. Then a year passed. And another.

So now it’s May 2023 and DUMBO hasn’t opened and no word when. What is the problem???” an enthusiast asked on Spumoni Garden’s Facebook — but received no reply.

Rumors popped up on local websites like the Brooklyn Heights Blog and NextDoor: The restaurant’s family members had a disagreement; a franchisee backed out; they couldn’t find a chef; it was too far for their Gravesend employees to commute. A BHB contributor wrote in May 2023, “The folks at L&B Spumoni Gardens say they’re still waiting for permits from the city to open their DUMBO location. They’re hoping to open in early June 2023.” Other speculations ranged from delays due to COVID-19, to permitting issues, to lawsuits, to the tragic death in 2016 of co-owner Louis Barbati. (The killer was convicted in 2019.)

Online sleuths reported that the Licensing Bureau of New York State Liquor Authority issued a restaurant wine license under the name of “Square That Gets Around,” doing business as L&B Spumoni Gardens, on November 10, 2022. (The license expires on Oct. 31, 2024.)

Workers recently ripped out the illegal staircase in front of 46 Old Fulton St. and laid down a new sidewalk, seen in this photo. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
Workers recently ripped out the illegal staircase in front of 46 Old Fulton St. and laid down a new sidewalk, seen in this photo. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Gossip from competitor Grimaldi’s

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria at 1 Front St. is directly across Old  Fulton Street from the Spumoni Gardens space. Grimaldi sells whole traditional pies while Spumoni Gardens sells Sicilian slices, so their customers don’t completely overlap.

The Eagle asked a Grimaldi manager in June if he had any hot gossip on the potential competition.

“That’s all everyone asks,” he complained. “Every day, people walk in and ask me when are they going to open. I have no idea,” he said.

Highly recommended on a summer day: L&B Spumoni Gardens’ rainbow spumoni. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
Highly recommended on a summer day: L&B Spumoni Gardens’ rainbow spumoni. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Restaurant stays mum, fans stay hopeful

Spumoni Gardens’ owners are playing it close to the vest. The Eagle’s emails and calls have — so far — not been answered. The company’s website continues to claim the DUMBO location will be throwing a grand opening “soon,” and people can join a mailing list to be notified of updates.

This reporter last visited the Gravesend location in March, hoping for a chat with the owners (plus a few slices and some spumoni). The restaurant was packed inside and out with families, sports teams, firefighters.

The owners were not available, but a restaurant manager informally assured this reporter that the DUMBO location was still in the works. He blamed DOB for the delays. 

Spumoni Gardens’ fans are crossing their fingers, hoping that this time their wish will come true.

Outdoor dining at L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst in October.AP file photo by Kathy Willens
Outdoor dining at L&B Spumoni Gardens in Gravesend in October. AP file photo by Kathy Willens

👉🏼 Real estate insight:

While the famous pizza emporium is taking over the ground floor at 46 Old Fulton St. (a four-story building built in 1925), the building also includes more than 14,000-square feet of residential space — including a luxurious four-bedroom penthouse with private roof deck. (The penthouse, once occupied by Saturday Night Live alum Pete Davidson, was renting for an eye-popping $30,000 a month in 2023, according to Architectural Digest.)

According to NYC’s Automated City Register Information System, the building is owned by a consortium of four LLCs. Holding majority stakes are 46 Cadman Plaza LLC; 46 Old Fulton LLC; and Shivani Equities LLC. Minority owner WAR46 LLC owns 5%. 

According to PincusCo, 46 Cadman Plaza LLC signed a $6 million refi loan with Signature Bank on May 10, 2022.


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