Addio, Al Ducci?

To the Editor:

As a transplanted New York City Italian, I went into sell-the-house panic when I learned that Al Ducci's had closed. Where would I get my caponata, my slabs of Parmigiano Reggiano, my transparent slices of prosciutto di Parma, my aceto balsamico di Modena, all the antipasto I served to visiting family on holidays? I was feeling alone even knowing that many of my non-Italian Vermont neighbors, seduced by Mediterranean delights, were equally bereft. So when the store popped open again, I went to see Nancy and Al, the proprietors with whom I, like many other locals, had become friendly. What's up? I asked.

The answer was simple: however many of us were mourning the loss, thanks to the recession there weren't enough of us to keep the store in the black for the past two years. Nancy and Al defaulted on the mortgage and the Berkshire Bank foreclosed. They sold the stock and locked the door on an empty store. But, fortunatamente, a benefactor came forward with enough money to meet some debt and permit reopening - at least temporarily. Al and Nancy have less than sixty days to come up with the rest of the money the bank is demanding - or else, it's goodbye to whatever Little Italy Manchester has and the jobs it provides.

Sadly, Al Ducci's is only one of millions of commercial and residential properties foreclosed since the '08 crash. The government has tried to stem the blight by urging lenders to renegotiate mortgages - principal and rate reductions, extended time, etc. - mostly to no avail. Al said he asked Berkshire to make some accommodations, but it refused. It's hard to understand this intransigence. Why would the bank want to take possession of a property that probably wouldn't bring much at auction in this depressed economy, when it could be guaranteed long-term income by renegotiating with Al? At any rate, that's where Al Ducci's stands. Maybe another bank with more interest in the community will pick up the mortgage at doable terms.

Certainly, closing Al Ducci's will have a further negative impact on an already depressed area. Maybe we should have a fund-raising "Save Al Ducci's" rally. And maybe these are all just pipe dreams. When profit conflicts with anything - including keeping people in their homes or good food on their tables - you can bet profit will always win. But where will I get my San Marzano tomatoes or orrechiette for my rabe and salsiccia?

Andrew Torre



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