The Old Guy: Remembering a beloved Staten Island restaurant that did not survive 2020 –

Posted: November 27, 2020 at 9:46 am

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Donovan, the singer/songwriter once called the next Dylan, who Bob Dylan ridiculed on one of his European tours, has a song that goes:

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

Its a reference to a Buddhist text and refers to enlightenment. Something you believe in is present, then its not, then it is. Everything changes. Some changes are unavoidable and some are unpleasant.

Changes in my neighborhood directly effect the way I live my life.

And its really hard for me to accept change. But this time, I had no choice. The proof was right in front of my eyes, even though I wanted to ignore it.

A for sale sign hanging in the right hand window. Vida was gone.

A valued asset of the Stapleton community since 2003, Vida served up fine food in a wonderfully cozy atmosphere, while Cesare Evora played on the sound system. Local art decorated the walls and many a joyful night was spent there with family and friends. Our friend Silva owned and operated the restaurant. Joan and I celebrated our 10th anniversary within its walls.

Vida opened around the same time as The Muddy Cup, signaling a revival to the area that eventually led to three years of Van Duzer Days. The Cups owners, Jim and Rob, were directly responsible for my family moving into the neighborhood. Jim knew our landlord, Joe, and arranged for us to see the apartment that has now been our home for the past 17 years.

Close proximity to both the Cup and Vida helped in our decision.

One night, Jim, Rob, Joan, Silva and I stood in the vacant restaurant, way past closing time. Silva brought out a bottle of wine and proposed a toast to us all. As we drank, a light patina of snow fell. We gazed upon it wistfully. Aint nobody going to work tomorrow, Rob declared. In fact, nobody did.

Through the years, Vida had its ups and down. Severely limited parking outside the restaurant didnt help. Though the area buzzed with activity from the restaurant, the Cup and Martini Reds (which is now the Hop Shoppe), people didnt come much to the neighborhood. To each their own. And, their loss.

Silva sometimes complained that she wanted to leave, that it was too much running the restaurant, cooking and handling its financial affairs. Then, she would change her mind and tough it out for another year. We thought she always would.

This year, we were wrong. This was the year Silva made good on her promise and disappeared, leaving the shell of a storefront behind her.

Then again, this year, nobodys been right about anything. All bets are off. The only sure thing is uncertainty, and that can destroy a local business faster than you can say pita bread.

Times have been tough for Stapleton. The former Cup is now a tattoo parlor. The former Duzer Local looks to be re-opening under the name Amiras Cafe. So many new enterprises were set to begin before the virus came to town. Now, its mostly wait and see.

But, my mind is on Vida, its promise and what it meant to this neighborhood. It absolutely increases the quality of life in a community if you can walk down the block to a decent restaurant. Staten Island has no shortage of great places to eat, but when its your neighborhood, your community, when you see your friends gathering at a local spot to eat or hear music or just hang out, it means a lot more.

That sense of community gets you through pandemics and catastrophes, good times and bad, hustle and hollowness. Each venue is a brick upon which other venues are built. And, when one brick disappears, the rest topple and sometimes fall away.

What will happen now is anybodys guess. The Coop, which is a bar next door, might expand. The storefront might stay vacant for awhile, as did the Cup. Whatever happens, the memories of good times within Vidas walls will not fade. They, too, are bricks in a chain of memories.

I have faith in Stapleton, otherwise I wouldnt live here. On first glance, it might seem unimpressive and maybe even, to some folks, threatening. Stapleton does have a reputation, and a lot of it for unsavory things. But the people are what make a community, and the people that have made their home here like Donna, Frankie and Dave, who have set up businesses like Joe and Ira and the hundreds of musicians who have come to play at the Cup, Martinis, the Hop Shoppe and Duzer Local have made this a place of warmth and solace. Mountains may come and go, but memories are forever.

Hold those grey heads high!

Comments about this and ally columns may be addressed to Talk To The Old Guy on Facebook. My deep appreciation to all who have left lovely thank you notes. You are sincerely welcome!

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The Old Guy: Remembering a beloved Staten Island restaurant that did not survive 2020 -

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November 27th, 2020 at 9:46 am

Posted in Enlightenment