A month and a half after Sangillo’s Tavern served its last Jello-shot, a long-time Portland bar owner is poised to breathe new life into the embattled Hampshire Street dive.
Samuel Minervino, of Samuel’s Bar and Grill on Forest Avenue told Urban Eye Friday he has an agreement with building owner Nick Ciccomancini to take over the low-slung, brick institution that closed February 14th after a 62-year run. The storied working class hangout was the scene of several disturbances, including a shooting outside the bar in January 2014. Last April, the City Council denied Sangillo’s liquor license renewal leading to its unceremonious demise.
Undeterred, Minervino, who has deep ties to the India Street neighborhood, wants to revive the space as Tomaso’s Canteen: a relaxed pub serving affordable fish and chips and Italian sausages for “working class people.”
“The founding fathers of our country met in taverns,” said the 57 year old outside the empty establishment in what was once Portland’s Little Italy. “A neighborhood bar keeps people together. How many people don’t know their neighbors?”
To Minervino, a Portland restaurateur for decades (he ran Sam’s Harbor Lunch on Commercial Street in the ’80s) the location has deep meaning. Years ago his aunt owned a wedding favor shop in the space, his great grandfather Tomaso moved to India Street upon immigrating from Italy. As a youth he visited Sangillo’s with his father.
Though, “honestly I wish they had gotten to stay,” said Minervino, he cobbled together a plan quickly when he knew the space was available. “They ran a great business here, there were always people here. Why not?”
Minervino will run the bar with his daughter Meg Minervino. “I am doing this for security and to keep me busy.”
Starting the arduous process of applying for a liquor license and meeting with the city’s zoning department, busy he surely will be.
“I’m insane,” Minervino admitted as former owner Dana Sangillo and a work crew removed the remains of Sangillo’s wooden bar and unhinged its jukebox.
Next step for Dana? “Hard telling, not knowing,” he said.
Sangillo, who inherited the bar from his grandfather, still harbors disappointment at the way things went down. “There was no winning,” he said. “The city had an agenda and we weren’t on it.”
Despite the dissipation of a family run business, he expressed approval of the building’s next phase. “It’s nothing, but a positive thing.”
Minervino expects to open Tomaso’s Canteen in July.