Food & Drink

Popular family-owned Italian market Laurenzo’s is closing. ‘People can’t believe it.’

Vinnie ‘The Butcher’ Covillo displays the fresh cut steaks from Laurenzo’s Italian Market in North Miami Beach on Friday, June 22, 2018.
Vinnie ‘The Butcher’ Covillo displays the fresh cut steaks from Laurenzo’s Italian Market in North Miami Beach on Friday, June 22, 2018. Miami Herald File

“If you want to experience Little Italy without having to go to New York, Laurenzo’s Italian Center in North Miami Beach is the place to go,” the Miami Herald said in 2005.

That’s been the case since Laurenzo’s market opened at 16385 W. Dixie Hwy. 69 years ago, in 1951: steaming, aromatic plates of spaghetti and meatballs or anchovies, gooey, tangy lasagna and eggplant Parmesan, thick Sicilian pizza. You could take it all home, too, with grocery bags stuffed with olive oil, pasta and red wine.

But come July 31, Laurenzo’s enters the history books. The popular Italian food market closes its doors at month’s end, the Miami New Times first reported Saturday.

“They are selling the place,” said Cristy Marten, who works at the store’s deli. “Everybody is not going to have a job. They just told us yesterday. People can’t believe it. They are sad.”

Customers, too, she said.

Marten said she’s worked at Laurenzo’s only for a year. “But people have been here 20 years, 30 years.”

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Laurenzo’s meatballs Danny Brody Miami Herald File

When Frank Sinatra sang to packed rooms along hotel row on Collins Avenue in the 1950s and early ‘60s and wanted something like his mama’s “Sunday gravy,” the 20th century’s most famous Italian-American stopped by Laurenzo’s — or had one of his posse pop over — for something good to go.

Patrons found out about the coming closing as they strolled by the front door where owners David, Carol and Robert Laurenzo posted a sign to its “Valued Customers” that read:

“We would like to announce our retirement and the closing of Laurenzo’s Italian Market effective July 31, 2019. Although we are excited to begin this new chapter in our lives, we will miss being a part of yours. For 69 years, our market has thrived due to the loyalty and support of our wonderful customers. Thank you for your patronage and your friendship. Wishing you good health and happiness in the years to come! Please continue to visit Laurenzo’s Farmers Market for all your fresh produce needs.”

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David Laurenzo, owner of Laurenzo’s Italian Market & Cafe in North Miami Beach, photographed near the extensive wine section of the store on Friday, June 22, 2018. C.M. GUERRERO. Miami Herald File

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Laurenzo’s was established in 1951 by second-generation Italian-Americans Ben Laurenzo and his brother Achilles. Ben Laurenzo died in January 2018. Laurenzo’s stayed in the family.

His son David Laurenzo took over the operation and David’s children — the grandkids — are in charge of the butcher shop (Robert) and the office (Carol).

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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