Gaia Italian Cafe Still Open; Future is In Doubt

Gaia Italian Cafe, 251 East Houston St.

Gaia Italian Cafe, a hidden gem on East Houston Street, may or may not be closing.

Gaia Italian Cafe, 2251 East Houston St.
Gaia Italian Cafe, 2251 East Houston St.

On Friday, proprietor Gaia Bagnasacco posted an item on the restaurant’s Facebook page indicating she planned to close on Saturday “probably forever.”  The posting went on to explain, cryptically, “too much has happen and the owner does not feel anymore to do it.”  There was an outpouring of support on Facebook, expressions of appreciation for a little place that has stirred strong passions since it opened in 2011. 

This morning, we stopped by the garden-level space at 251 East Houston Street and found Gaia behind the counter serving her first customers of the day. In a brief conversation, she said the last few weeks have been difficult.  The charming and very affordable place is almost always busy, so it’s really not a financial decision.  Gaia suggested that her initial decision was the result of recent conflicts with customers, people who she said have different expectations for the restaurant than she has herself.  Gaia said the spot has always been a labor of love for her and she tends to take things personally.  There’s a cultural divide, she suggested, that has left her questioning whether to continue cooking.  The many effusive comments online may have her rethinking the decision.  The bottom line: Gaia could decide to tough it out or to close up shop at any moment.

We profiled Gaia in 2011, highlighting her fresh, homemade, authentic cooking and personal approach.  We also mentioned the restaurant in our Best of the Lower East Side issue earlier this month.