Monday, May 16, 2011

The End Of An Era: Joe's Superette Closes After More Than 50 Years In Carroll Gardens

An older photo of Leo Coladonato, which hangs in the store.
Louie has helped Leo run Joe's Superette for years.
The last Prosciutto balls ready to be fried
The kitchen where magic happened
Leo making an order of prosciutto balls

Here goes another Carroll Gardens institution, another piece of neighborhood history. Say good bye to Joe's Superette. Sad, I know...

The old fashioned deli at 349 Smith Street between Carroll and 2nd Street is closing its doors after more than 50 years. The original owner, Joe, for whom the deli was named, ran the place with his wife and daughter for decades. They did all the cooking out of the relatively small kitchen in the back. When Joe was ready to retire, he sold the business to one of his employees, Leo Coladonato. Leo knew the store and its customers well. One could say that he had grown up there. He had started working for Joe when he was just a kid, delivering orders. As he became older, he made his way behind the counter, slicing cold-cuts and making sandwiches.

When he took over the business in 1985, Leo kept the name and the old "Joe's Superette" sign, so everyone continued calling it Joe's. All through the 1980's and 90's, there were long lines in front of Joe's at lunchtime. Though customers loved the overstuffed sandwiches, they really came for those famous prosciutto balls that Leo made in the small kitchen. Deep-fried to golden perfection, the gooey, cheesy bites of breaded ricotta, mozzarella and ham, they were the reason why people came to this place from all over Brooklyn. They were simply heavenly. Sadly, Leo has had health issues in reason months. Louie, who has worked for Leo for a few years, has kept things going in the store. However, the decision has been made to close Joe's Superette. The store is being emptied right now.

How sad. It is, indeed, the end of an era.

Sadly, Leo passed away on Thursday, May 19th, just days after his store closed.
Read more here:
Sad News! Carroll Gardens Deli Man, Leo Coladonato, Passed Away This Morning



lcp said...

I am in mourning! The prosciutto balls were little bits of heaven. :(

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I just want to lay down and die.

Katia said...

You and me both, Brooks.
I loved the cheese and rice balls with a passion.

Gina H. said...

Hey Katia,

Joe's is indeed a Carroll Gardens institution. I can't tell you what a lifeline it was for those of us who grew up in the 60's and 70's.
Joe, his lovely wife Ann and their two sons, Joseph and Steven (they didn't have a daughter) were always behind that counter, with a smile and a hello that made you feel that you were part of a family. Ann's sister (her name escapes me) was there a lot of the time too.
How many pounds of cold cuts, how may rolls, prosciutto and rice balls did my mother purchase there. How many Manhattan Specials did we consume on a hot summers day that we bought there.
Joe would always tell the story of when I was a baby, how my mother would sit me on the counter and I would ask for "cheese please. And Joe, the good, kind soul that he was, would give in to my command and slice me a piece.
So heres to you Joe and Leo and the whole Superette family. Thanks for the memories, the good food and the many friendships that we made along the way.
Kissimmee, FL

Anonymous said...

How sad! Thanks for the food memories ....

Anonymous said...

a piece of me just died. let the mourning begin

Anonymous said...

I always ordered fresh mozzerella and roasted peppers.
Wise potato chips and a soda. The lines were long.
The potato croquettes were great. The NY times even did
a story about the place. I have that article to this day.
But after i spied a worker using his fingers to pick up the peppers I sadly never returned. What oh what will become of their iconic sign? Will it join the missing U in the graveyard of broken rice ball dreams? Get well soon, Leo,
and thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I have similar memories as Gina's. Joe's was the place of choice to buy your everyday groceries and other Italian specialties back in the early 60s and beyond. Freshly made ricotta, mozzarella, different varieties of fresh baked breads, etc. Joe, his wife, and her sister were always happy and cheerful and took great pride in their business. When we would go to the beach at Coney Island in the summer, an early morning trip to Joe's was mandatory to get freshly delivered seeded rolls, cold cuts, SunDew orange ade, and other lunch items that we'd pack in our beach bags and lug onto the subway. My mother would send me there when I was about 7-8 years old (we lived on President) with a short, handwritten shopping list & money that I would hand over to Joe. He would meticulously fill the order and pack the brown grocery bag and then tell me to tell my mother the change was in the bag...and I would walk back home eating the end of the loaf of Italian bread. That end was always missing when I handed my mother the bag of groceries...but it was the best part.

Anonymous said...

Truely the ONLY place to get a sandwhich back in day, the not to long ago day, like 1989 and on. The lines were the best part seeing all the different people buying lunch. That sign..I hope..will not go the way of the Carniceria sign from down Smith Street: plastered on a new cafe.
There is that Sue Perette homage, but that's OK. Bye, Bye Joe's. I hardly knew you. Thanks Katia for telling us this. I saw the signs but one never knows...

Carol Gardens said...

I'm so sad. I can't believe there was no warming. They could have sold thousands of balls if they announced a last chance goodbye event. Too bad no one wants to continue the tradition: a catering biz that just sold balls in bulk for parties would do great!

Laura said...

I've never been to Joe's, yet I'm sorry to see that it's closing. Places like this are one of the things I miss most about NYC. I hate to think that they, like so many other things, are disappearing.

I would LOVE a prosciutto ball!

Melanie said...

Great coverage--I am sad that they are closing--the best prosciutto balls in The City or anywhere. Maybe it is retirement time after all. I loved the guys there especially Joe. They made my day when I came into the shop for a fresh mozzarella sammy with sundried tomatoes on Italian bread. Always a smile and the best sammy ever!!Joes Superette rocks. They will be missed but not forgotten.

Unknown said...

As a veteran employee of Joe's, it is a sad day but the saddest part of this saga is Leo's illness. I ask that all of you remember him and his family in your prayers.

Phil A.
Joe's Superette
1968 to 1976

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! How sad. I loved this place!
I feel truly this is a loss to our neighborhood.

There are so many new places coming and going on Smith Street that have no "soul".

Joe's had nothing but soul! Best of luck to you Leo as you battle your illness.

Unknown said...


so sad to hear this news. i pray leo heals fast and on his feet again.

Anonymous said...

A very sad post. I very much appreciate the photos and the history you recount of Joe's Superette. I live on the UWS, and make it down to Carroll Gardens only a couple times a year. Something made me want to stop by a couple of weekends ago to pick up a dozen and a half prosciutto balls. Louie was at the counter, and was so nice. Little did I know that this would be my last trip.

Anonymous said...

Leo where r you? How can we send u a card?
I remember the photos on the fridge. Take care.

April said...

I sit here reading with tear flled eyes as I feel like a part of my childhood has died. We lived on 2nd St and my mom or one of the neighbors would be sending me to Joes for something. And yes I too had the hand written note from mom with and IOU which Joe was very good about helping when things got tuff... and would waiting for his money... I also would return home with the end of the Italian bread eaten LOL No place has ever compared to a Joes sandwich and No place ever will... I'm just glad I was fortunate enuf to have grown up there when it was one of the best places on earth to have been a kid!!! No place compares, people aren't the same and the NEIGHBORHOOD isn't the Neighborhood anymore!!!!!

Mister Meatball said...

Leo oughta set up a street stand and do the balls.

Seriously. It'd be a great summer business to have in CG.

Anonymous said...

No, Mr Meatball. It has to end, sadly, but it does.

FLSP said...

We also grew up in Carroll Gardens and remember Joe well. I can remember the excitement of getting ready for the beach everyday and my Mom sending me down to Joe with a list of coldcuts we needed to prepare for our day. I want to thank Leo and Louie for carrying on the tradition for as long as they did. I am very sorry to hear about Leo's health issues and wish him and his family the best. What we are truly grateful for is that our son had the opportunity to get to know one of the landmarks of our old neighborhood for there are not many left. Loved the prosciutto,rice and cheese balls let's not forget the Manhattan Specials either but does anyone remember Joe's Tuna Salad it was off the hook!!!!! Fondly, FLSP

Anonymous said...

food was great but i think he lost a lot of business because that place was dirty mice shit all over the place

bart said...

Joe's Superette was a landmark in the neighborhood, now known as Carroll Gardens, but was Red Hook when I grew up there. One comment is that the Joe's Superette under the direction of Leo, (RIP), was a completely different store as it was under the direction of the original owner and founder Joe. I think all the local neighborhood people who knew the store in the 60's and 70's will attest to that.

Kelly said...

We went to this place since we were little kids! I miss it soooo much!
Are any of the employees by chance in business on there own making similar food??? It's sooooo sad to think we will never have that experience again!!!
Even after not going for like two years I walked in and they knew my exact order!!

ryan c said...

I would kill just for the regular cheese rice balls recepie they were my favorite!

Anonymous said...

An original worker with Joe in the 60s along with his manager Steve Belich Joe and his wife Ann were both beautiful people to work for fond memories Lou Barbarino