For Whom the Bel Tolls

A sad sight greeted me at the Hummerville station this morning, a sight that’s probably popping up near stations all over the area.

The Italian restaurant Bel Paese, located directly across the street from the station, had a huge For Rent sign on it.

I certainly wasn’t a regular at Bel Paese (pronounced Pie-Z, not that it matters anymore). I’d eaten there three times. It was mediocre, though the portions were huge. The Missus and Little G and I hit all the local restaurants in our first six months or so in the ‘burbs, and promptly had our fill of just-OK red sauce joints, which meant we wouldn’t be going back to Bel Paese any time soon.

But I liked it there. It was the only real restaurant in Hawthorne’s blink-and-you-miss-it downtown area, not counting Gordo’s, which has bar food and is located a few hundred yards past the train station–an unsafe walk with no sidewalks. The few times we went to Bel Paese, the atmo was lively and everyone seemed to know each other. Sure, you could get better grub in Pleasantville or White Plains, but there was something to be said for a restaurant in your zip code. Once a man at a table near us commented on Little G’s Ramones t-shirt, and we had a short, pleasant convo about the band. There was live Italian music sometimes. There were autographed pictures of Rangers hockey players I didn’t recognize.

In fact I’d even been in there before we moved out of the city. We’d been shown the house we later ended up buying, and were set to make an offer. But we decided I would try the commute first–check out the train, see how the walk was from the station, maybe chat up a few locals about what they like/don’t like about the area–before making that 30-year commitment.

It was about 95 degrees that day. I’d hiked up the big hill to the house and decided, if I could do it in 95 degrees, I could do it any time. I was waiting for my return train to the city, and desperately needed a bathroom. I asked the maitre d at Bel Paese if I could kindly use the bathroom–an authorized bum’s rush–and she said yes. I remember thinking it’d be nice to have a little Italian joint here, across from the train.

Well, it is no more. And it’s hard to imagine, in this economy, anything going in there any time soon.

Arrivederci, Bel Paese.

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4 Responses to For Whom the Bel Tolls

  1. Susan says:

    Oh, no! Bel Paese is gone? Didn’t really like it but still, that’s depressing.

  2. Brain says:

    Based on the one time I stopped in to check it out and just ask if they offered takeout I vowed never to go back to eat.
    The restaurant was empty yet the one person working at the bar pretended not to speak english and the waitress refused to talk to me. It was bizarre.

    The closure is a sign of the times, first that comic store/deli/dungeon now this?
    what’s next, the brick-a-brack place with all the random crap?

    Good riddiance (to BP), put in a place to get a decent cup of coffee for chrissake

  3. William Hays says:

    Sorry to hear about your soon-to-be-departed restaurant. I was not much of a habituate of the Hawthorne/Thornwood area, although I did date a young lass that was a “Rockette” at Radio City. Once. I picked her up at a bar in Hawthorne/Thornwood for our date and met her parents in the bar. We went to Playland, in Rye, had a good time, and stopped at O’Hare’s, in White Plains, on the way back, for a beer. They “carded” her. She wasn’t 18! I was embarrassed, took her home (akt’chully, to the bar). End of story.
    Back to the thread: my favorite Italian restaurant in the world is “Arturo’s” in Silver Lake (White Plains). Nowhere near a railroad station, since the NYW&B went tits-up and General Motors killed our trolley cars. Try the Chicken Livers ala Tillie. Outstanding!!! Comes with a side of spaghettini. I purloined this recipe, with Tillie Arturo’s permission, and make it occasionally. Very high cholesterol count, but who cares? That’s what “Lipitor” is for, no?
    Bill

  4. David says:

    Goodbye Joey Bel Paese! Anyone who has ever known you is not shedding a tear. Maybe at one time you had a good thing going there, but that was over 10 years ago! You’re the type of low-class Italian that thinks he walked off the set of Sopranos and is connected. Your days of ripping off your staff are done. Having once worked there back in the late 90’s, I can testify of the time that your father Enrico screwed up an order and forgot to mention to the staff that they were out of Veal Chop. So what does he do? He fishes a bone out of the trash and ties to slices of veal scallopine around it and stuffed it with Broc Rabe, Prosciutto, and Mozzerella to make it look like Veal Valdestana. You’re just lucky no one ever sued you for food poisoning with the way you cooked over there.

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