April 7, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The rumors proved to be true.
For weeks, residents in Long Island City have wondered whether the beloved Italian restaurant Bella Via on Vernon Boulevard had shuttered its doors for good.
In early March, the local staple’s famous coal oven pizza was firing no more as the Italian eatery suddenly stopped doing business from its prominent location on the corner of Vernon Boulevard and 48th Avenue. Brown paper filled its windows while more recently the restaurant’s outdoor dining areas were torn down.
Still, there was no word from owner Sal Polito while the company’s social media accounts went dormant. Multiple calls and text messages from the Queens Post to Polito failed to find a definitive answer.
In recent days, however, a “For Rent” sign has gone up on the premises putting an end to the speculation – and an end to an era.
Joe McManus, the owner of the building, confirmed the news of the restaurant’s closure to the Queens Post Thursday. He said that a dip in trade led to its eventual demise.
The restaurant was established in 2002 by Polito, just as Long Island City was beginning to transform from an industrial area to a booming residential neighborhood. The major waterfront developments had yet to go up at the time. For instance, TF Cornerstone didn’t complete its first apartment complex on Center Boulevard until 2006.
Polito named the restaurant Bella Via, which means “pretty street” in Italian, prompted by its attractive views down 48th Avenue, according to its website. The restaurant was popular for its sidewalk seating, where customers would be able to look down the avenue and see Gantry Plaza State Park with the Empire State Building in the distance.
However, it was the pizza, fine Italian food and friendly atmosphere that established Bella Via as a local favorite.
Customers craved for its selection of pies such as the Nutella pizza, the margherita, calzone and the Rughetta E Prosciutto Di Parma, which came topped with fresh arugula.
The restaurant also offered a wide range of pastas, antipasti, meat dishes and sandwiches.
Bella Via regularly hosted live music by local performers.
Like many other small businesses, Bella Via faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic and struggled to stay out of the red.
Polito initially had to spend $20,000 to build a canopy for sidewalk dining, which would lead to unforeseen and expensive problems.
In December 2020, inspectors found patrons in the canopy while the structure’s sliding panels and doors were not open, according to PIX11. At the time, indoor dining was banned, and the city required any outdoor dining structure to have at least two open sides.
Polito’s liquor license was temporarily suspended as a result of the violation, and he was fined $5,000.
Polito decried he was not given any warning about the offense and that he lost business by not being able to sell alcohol. He told the news outlet at the time that he was already six months behind on his rent and owed state sales taxes.
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Very sad. I loved this place. Excellent variety of dishes, prices and friendly service.
Maiella will likely be next, a shell of its former self
SMH at the anti-Chinese comments. Businesses come and go – you lose a Mu Ramen and Sammy’s Kebab’s come in. I’m grateful that I can get the world’s cuisine in LIC. Let’s celebrate what we have – Levante, WeBagel, Blackstar Bakery, Chairman Sun, Hibino, Manetta’s…
LIC unfortunately becoming the new Flushing,. horrible chinese stores like the Tea place on Center Blvd selling all kinds of crap now,. the horrible weird bakery next to skinnys,. noodle and sushi every turn you make,.. move to miami and join everyone opening up show there,. leave LIC for the socialists taken over and chinese
Look, this guy made bad decisions, with his back against the wall due to Covid. He had to do what he had to do, but the City had to make rules to keep people from literally dying. Neither side is completely in the wrong, but he has to accept some responsibility. Hopefully he can reopen in this neighborhood again once we are past this. I wish him better luck and more foresight in the future.
this is a major bummer. their pizza was so good and everything was fairly priced.
They had very good pizza, best in LIC by far, and was overall a nice place. Shame to see them close. I remember a hardware store being there prior but maybe it was next door, wonder if anyone recalls. Horrible about the fines and suspensions, the city (and others) really know who to go after while turning away from the flagrant issues that have made the city worse and have caused many to leave for a better quality of life and safety. They had a good run and best of luck to them in the future. Maybe they can try a Bella Via II in south florida, seems that is where many NYers are going to anyway.
Such a shame! Why hasn’t the State of NY helped out small businesses to keep them afloat till patrons returned! Maybe we need more responsible leadership in NYC.
NYS too busy making sure squatters do not get evicted, and criminals do not go to prison. Wealthy restauranters all got handouts (many over $1mm) from the SBA, foolish “Restaurant Revitalization” program that based their handouts on lost revenue, not net income. Hence, large restaurants got all the $ and the program ran out of money. Too late for the small guys who mostly went out of business.
Devastated! I wish Sal the best, Bella Via will be missed
The man’s rent was doubled and he couldn’t’ stay in business. Business was good at Bella Via, always crowded, nights and weekends. The greedy landlord will hopefully miss months if not years in rent, just like the other greedy landlords in the neighborhood, oh wait, there is another Chinese Bakery that needs to open up, never mind.
Yep, the neighborhood has already been ruined by crime, and an influx of shady Asian money. It’s all downhill from here.
This is so sad, I really hope they find a way to reopen at a new location at some point.