NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: CARROLL GARDENS
NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: CARROLL GARDENS; 'Moonstruck' Bakery Eclipsed
By RICHARD WEIR Published: September 20, 1998
Marlene Hochman and her three children pressed their faces against the glass door of the Cammareri Brothers Bakery one evening last week. The place was dark, its shelves empty.
''We were coming to buy cookies for desert,'' said Mrs. Hochman, who lives two blocks from the bakery, at Henry and Sackett Streets. ''What are we going to do for cookies now?''
A Carroll Gardens institution for nearly 80 years and the setting for scenes in the 1987 movie ''Moonstruck,'' the bakery abruptly closed on Labor Day.
''It's a tragedy,'' said Maryann Imparato, 44, who recalled stopping by at 1 A.M. to buy steaming-hot semolina loaves. ''You can't beat the taste of Cammareri bread. It's the best. You don't even need butter.''
But some people, including Frances Paladino, Ms. Imparato's mother, said that in recent years the bread was not as fresh or tasty as it was, and the bakery not as clean.
Mrs. Paladino, 76, said she started buying Cammareri bread when she was 5 and a loaf cost a nickel. ''Everybody used to go there,'' she said. But in recent years, she said, ''Nobody would go there anymore.''
Ten years ago, after the release of ''Moonstruck,'' tour groups and customers flocked to the bakery from Manhattan, and the owner, Gilberto Godoy, who had a bit part in the movie playing a baker, would sign autographs on bread bags.
The bakery had been in the Cammareri family for three generations when Mr. Godoy, who became its principal baker after arriving penniless from Argentina in 1969, bought it in 1985. In a 1988 interview with The New York Times, the director of ''Moonstruck,'' Norman Jewison, said the bakery, one of the few left in the city that used coal ovens, had ''the heat and ambiance I wanted.''
Mr. Godoy said the bakery went into decline began three years ago after he and his wife, Nelida, who worked behind the counter, divorced. ''I was lost,'' he said, adding that the breakup of his marriage left him emotionally and financially drained. Last year, one of the two brick ovens caught fire and was destroyed.
He said he tried to keep up with production and delivery of bread to 350 wholesale customers, including the River Cafe in Brooklyn and Savories at Rockefeller Plaza, but fell behind, and the business floundered. He has teamed up with Reliable Bakery in Bensonhurst, where he still bakes bread under the Cammareri name in gas-fired brick ovens.
''We are doing fantastic,'' he said. As for the old bakery, Mr. Godoy said Mario Cammareri, who lives above it, has considered converting the store into an apartment. Mr. Cammareri refused to comment.
''They feel sick like me,'' Mr. Godoy said of the Cammareri family. ''I never thought we would leave that place. I can't even pass by without my stomach turning upside down.'' RICHARD WEIR
Photos: The Cammareri Brothers Bakery, a setting for Nicolas Cage in ''Moonstruck,'' has closed. (Susan B. Markisz for The New York Times); (Photofest)