Forlini’s, one of Manhattan’s last remaining red sauce joints that first opened in 1956, has officially closed, owner Joe Forlini confirmed to Eater in an interview. The building that houses has also been sold. Earlier this week, Forlini told Eater that the restaurant, located at 93 Baxter Street, near Walker Street, may close on April 18 — or sooner. “I like the idea of closing that Monday after Easter Sunday,” Forlini said at the time, adding that it’s ultimately up to the new owners to decide. However, after publication of this article, Forlini suddenly told Eater via phone that the restaurant had held its last service as of last night. Forlini would not elaborate on the change.
Forlini confirmed that 12 family members currently own the 91-93 Baxter Street building, with him and Derek Forlini as the sole operators of the restaurant. Forlini says the reason for the closure was simply due to age. “My cousin and I are in our sixties now,” he says.
Over the years, Forlini’s became known for its old-school classic dishes like veal scalloppini, lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and limoncello, and it’s remained a restaurant that Eater critic Robert Sietsema considers one of the rare spots to eat well in Little Italy these days.
Given its proximity to the Manhattan courts, Forlini’s became a favorite amongst lawyers, judges, and jurors on lunch break. In recent years, the restaurant has also been embraced by the fashion industry, with Vogue once hosting a Met Gala pre-party at the establishment.
Forlini did not disclose the name of the new owners, and that his real estate agent is not currently aware of anyone slated to rent the restaurant space. However, he stated that the new owners purchased the whole restaurant space, including tables, chairs, and equipment. Joe and his cousin Derek Forlini retain the Forlini’s name.
In 2020, Eater reported that the building that houses the family-run restaurant was on the market for $15 million and would subsequently shut down. Sales documents that year estimated that the value of the restaurant, was estimated to be worth $32,000 a month in rent. The amount Forlini and his family ended up selling both the restaurant and building for was not disclosed to Eater.
Eater reached out to Marcus & Millichap real estate group, which originally listed the building complex in 2020, but did not hear back by the time of publication (Forlini told Eater that he worked with a different, unnamed real estate agent team for the final sale).
“We’re going to go out and celebrate exactly like we did for 70 plus years,” Forlini told Eater earlier this week, in response to whether any specials were in the works for the restaurants winding down. Forlini added that after the restaurant’s official closure, he plans to host a private party for his staff at the restaurant.
The sale of the storied restaurant comes at a contentious time for Baxter Street. In 2017, former Mayor Bill de Blasio approved a plan to turn Chinatown’s Manhattan Detention Center into the world’s tallest jail, a proposal that local activists have long pushed back against — in part because of its affects on Chinatown businesses, some of which have already been forced to vacate. Forlini told Eater that his decision to close the restaurant was not related to the Baxter Street project.
Update: March 31, 2022, 12:51 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from Joe Forlini.