Customers at fabled Italian trattoria Da Silvano’s sidewalk tables enjoyed colorful Greenwich Village people-watching for 41 years. But instead of perusing the passing parade, diners at new restaurant Avena, which replaced Da Silvano at 260 Sixth Ave., see only a pair of chain-link fences.
They surround a triangular plot in front of the restaurant along the east side of the avenue between West Houston and Bleecker streets, with nothing between the fences but bare concrete.
The construction surrounds work on a tiny new $1.49 million park called Little Red Square, which has been delayed several times since the Parks Department first announced a May 2017 completion date back in 2014. The current target date is winter of 2020.
Bar Pitti, which is next door to Avena, is hemmed in, too, but it has a loyal clientele after 25 years. It’s a different story for beleaguered Avena, which has zilch name recognition downtown — and is struggling to cope with a construction nightmare of a kind that’s ruined other new places.
Avena chef and owner Roberto Deiaco and his wife, Giselle, knew it was a challenge to follow Da Silvano, which was as famous for its boldface clientele as for owner Silvano Marchetto’s Northern Italian cuisine.
They signed their lease after Da Silvano closed in December 2016. On top of redesign costs, they blew through a half-million dollars on a year’s rent before they opened Avena’s doors in February. “At one point we didn’t think we’d make it to the opening,” Giselle said.
They counted on sidewalk-seat business this summer to make up for the outlay. “But after two weeks, we had this beautiful surprise,” Roberto said, sarcastically referring to the fences, which make Avena all but invisible and squeeze the sidewalk into a narrow lane.
The crunch reduced what should be 55 al fresco seats to 32. “Sometimes it’s so congested that our servers bump into passersby from SoHo on their way to the West Fourth Street subway station,” Giselle said.
Thanks to the mess, neither the outdoor seats nor 135 indoor seats at Avena and casual adjacent offshoot Osteria are as full as they should be. (Avena boasts classics such as Amalfi seafood stew and mezzelune pasta filled with duck confit and foie gras. Osteria has a more casual menu.)
To beautify customers’ views, the owners tapped East Village-based muralist Billy the Artist to paint a bright, graffiti-like screen. The 18-foot long work was mounted on the fence on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, neighbors say that work on the park has stalled. “No one’s been here for a month,” claimed a woman who lives upstairs.
Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard said the “complicated” project needs coordination with Con Ed, the departments of transportation and environmental protection, the FDNY, Verizon and the MTA.
“As with all construction projects, work is happening even when it’s not visible to the public,” she added.
Giselle fumed, “Imagine, it will take the city two years to build a small park. I know of 50-story buildings that get built in two years.”