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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