Here I am eating my last French bread pizza and lemon cookie at Cafe La Fortuna. In the summer of 1997, Husband I moved to the Upper West Side so that I could live near Fordham Law School, which I was to attend in the fall. (That lasted for two days. I came to my senses and dropped out of law school first thing in the morning of my third day.) We were not thrilled about leaving behind the Village, where we had met while undergrads at NYU. The family-friendly Upper West Side seemed boring and sedate compared to the cafe culture of the Village.
Cafe La Fortuna was the first place I went to that made me feel like I could not only survive on the Upper West Side, but actually enjoy it. It was John Lennon and Yoko Ono's favorite cafe. Opera memorabilia adorned the cozy walls, arias played over the sound system, and on warm days, there was a lovely backyard in which to sip iced tea and eat scrumptious desserts. Best of all, they had French bread pizzas for only $3.00! No one was ever in a rush at the cafe. It was a soothing and delightful place.
Over the past 11 years, Husband and I came to love the homey feeling of the Upper West Side. We have lived in three different apartments in the neighborhood, all within 10 blocks. Sadly, we also watched gentrification encroach upon our adopted mixed income neighborhood. It's nearly impossible to buy a one bedroom apartment for under $600,000, and renting one will run about $2,500 a month. Lately, the spread of wine bars, designer boutiques, and Pinkberry frozen yogurt shops has happened so fast I sometimes don't even comprehend the net loss.
Thus it is with Cafe La Fortuna. As you can see below, a combination of rising rents and devastating personal loss led to the closing of my favorite neighborhood refuge. Today was its last day of business, and it was packed with people like us who wanted to say good-bye. My French bread pizza was more like $7 or $8, but it tasted every bit as good as it did when I first took a bite 11 years ago.
Thanks, Cafe La Fortuna, for 11 years of good eats and good times. We'll miss you.