By: Billy Ingram
When Charles Sciabbarrasi and Ray Mascali, two Sicilian-Americans from New Jersey, opened New York Pizza beside the ice skating rink in the Carolina Circle Mall in August 1976, it was an instant hit. In September 1978 (everyone insists it’s 1977, but newspaper accounts say otherwise) they opened a second location on Tate Street in a wedge-shaped former Northwestern Bank branch.
Today, Sciabbarrasi is busy running his All Fresh Produce and his trucks can be seen all over the Triad. He explained why selling their authentic Neapolitan pies near the University of North Carolina Greensboro campus made sense, “It was the only decent place to eat in the area,” he said. “There was nothing out there, food-wise. Students had the cafeteria and us.” The price of a large pizza in 1978 was $4.00.
Sciabbarrasi and Mascali leased the building next door a year later, a plant store facing Walker, and then merged to add a full-service bar. “Liquor by the drink had just been approved,” they said. “Our license was one of the very first in Guilford County.”
Sciabbarrasi said opening a bar was not much of a gamble because the legal drinking age at the time was 18. “Most of the students were 18,” Sciabbarrasi laughed. “And what do students do? I rest my case.”
NYP was joined on Tate in the early-1980s by night clubs hosting live shows like Belstone Fox and Nightshade Cafe, below Hong Kong House, where Grammy-winning country music/folk singer-songwriter and UNCG alumna EmmyLou Harris played her first gig.
Just down the block was Fridays where R.E.M. and Violent Femmes rocked out for only a $1 cover charge. By the time the drinking age raised to 21 in 1985, the music venues had folded.
A decade or so ago, after Sciabbarrasi and Mascali sold the place to Eddie Gramisci, NYP was one of the city’s top spot for long lunches. Day drinking lollygaggers mingled with bed-headed musicians dressed in clothes they picked up off the floor.
Construction workers, professors, lawyers, nursery school teachers, artists, skateboarders, all jostled the joint to curry favor with Misty Lee. She transcended mere bartending, venturing into alchemy with ‘The Pour,’ a measure of vodka or bourbon not for the faint-hearted, reserved for those creative souls who kept lively conversations percolating at this, Bizarro World’s Algonquin Round Table.
Two weeks ago, new owners assumed the mantle of Greensboro’s cultural cauldron and one could feel NYP awakening from its Odinsleep.
Manager Vishal Goswami is excited about the challenge, “We’re adding different types of liquor, and we’re going to be running food specials,” Goswami said. “We want people to come check us out to see how we’re doing and slowly we’ll make more changes based on what people want.”
Reinstating the magically-disappearing-then-mysteriously-reappearing-patio is one of the new owner’s priorities.
NYP was never thought of as a music venue until this last decade when Eric Moss and Rosie Hernandez began booking bands.
The last two years, under the direction of bar manager Jeff Losh, the emphasis has been on booking metal and jam bands. Monday nights are the Pizza Pile featuring members of The Mantras, Dreaded and, from Virginia, The Fat Catz.
Losh’s efforts scored NYP second place in Yes! Weekly’s 2017 reader’s poll for the Triad’s Best Live Music Venue, so it’s only natural that, behind the bar, Rob Joyce and Rob Paquette are both underground scene fixtures.
Joyce’s punk-antics are on display with Time Machine Drive-By and Sparkle Donkeys while Paquette is the hardcore guitarist for Dreaded.
“During the day this is a restaurant-bar where everyone can have fun,” Losh said. “Then at night, it turns into a venue that’s the best in Greensboro.” All shows are 18 and up and bands get pizza, PBR and 100 percent of the cover charge.
NYP will once again be hopping on Thursdays with $1 domestic beers and Dopey Graham’s EP release party on Aug. 24 and the Strictly Social DJ Carolina event on Aug. 31.
Billy Ingram is the author of 5 books and producer of The Nathan Stringer Summer Music Show now on DVD featuring performances by Grand Ole Uproar, Ameriglow, Jack Carter and more.