Dumont

RIP JoeyKid*

dumont sign

 

Like so many of us, Joseph began shaping my life before I ever met him. Most Fridays in the springs and summers of 2001 and 2002, my cousin Greg and I would have dinner at the charming neighborhood restaurant near Greg’s place on Powers Street in Williamsburg. I’d emerge from the Lorimer stop on the G, my eyes automatically scanning for Dumont’s vertical green neon sign – a new landmark quickly internalized as part of my city map.  Neither an upstart, nor a striver, Dumont seemed simply to have quietly arrived, only announcing itself in contrast to the glare of Kellogg’s Diner across Union Ave. And then in contrast to the scores of new bars and restaurants mushrooming around it in the years that followed. It was my go-to, especially for close friends visiting from out of town, whom I wanted to take to the parts of the city that were an extension of my home. It even had different rooms I could choose from depending on the occasion, or the company, and when I did meet Joseph a few years later, I told him I could never forgive him for redesigning the middle room and taking it away. A small nook with a bar, in the hallway between the front main dining room and the large garden in back, time seemed to stop in that small space. One day I arrived and it was “paved over” – refitted with a few rows of more seating. Through the years I also witnessed the garden grow from an informal gravel-floored back yard with fairy lights, to a beautifully landscaped and highly designed outdoor area that rivaled the front room as the heart of the place.  I can’t remember my last meal there, but I do remember convincing my dad and his sister Debbie to have a family brunch at Dressler, Joseph’s new creation. On Broadway, not far from Diner and Peter Luger’s, it also happened to be around the corner from where my grandma Ethel grew up and where the Blum family candy store once stood. I was very excited to share our experience with Joseph.

 

Joseph and I only hung out in person a handful of times over the years. But both because of the intimacy and immediacy of social media, and his personality – present, immediate, generous – he was a large presence. He shared himself and told great stories, which included his own bio – an Irish-Italian kid growing up in Williamsburg in the 70’s and 80’s, in a building on Grand Street that most of his extended Italian family eventually left – his dad reluctant to follow because of his beloved pigeons. Ultimately, this brilliant and energetic artist and visionary realized the potential he saw around him, and helped catalyzed the transformation of the borough of Brooklyn. I’m sure he had mixed feelings about that, and did eventually decamp to his place upstate, but we never completely got into it, perhaps a pact native New Yorker’s have with each other (at least for me, why ruin a nice moment).

I last saw Joseph at the new beautiful world he cultivated for himself near Woodstock. His voracious appetite for reading, for riding (motorcycles), for people, for the world, and his energy to take it all on, continued (and continue) to inspire. I feel so lucky to have crossed paths with him and can’t completely believe that a life force like his was human and extinguishable.

 

*Joseph Foglia passed away last month. I had’t seen him in a couple of years and we didn’t speak often, but his personality did not allow you to feel anything but close. And he had a  huge impact on my life and my experience of New York, as he did on pretty much anyone who’s lived in NYC over the last 20+ years, whether they are aware of it or not. His restaurant designs and visions for the potential for his borough, even (especially) during the rough and tumble of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, have had an impact that is almost impossible to measure. And he was more personally central to so many lives, whether through art, design, cycling, motorcycling, or just being an irrepressibly curious and caring person. Such a loss, still hard to believe. (Just a note: his personal bio is based on my memories of his stories from years ago, if I have gotten anything wrong, please let me know).

 

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