Gasbarro's was founded in 1898, by my great-grandfather, Antonio Gasbarro (pictured top right in photo below). Antonio traveled from Falvaterra, Italy, a small town 90 minutes south of Rome. He initially arrived in 1891, and finally, after several trips back and forth to Italy and marrying Enrica Andreozzi, he settled in Barrington, RI. In the fall of 1898, he opened up Gasbarro's Liquors on Knight Street, an outlet for whiskey and bourbon straight from the barrel, and a half-dozen homemade wines. Today, the store has 2,300 products to sell, 1,800 of which are wine.
In 1903, Gasbarro's moved down the road to 481 Atwells Avenue, in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence. A highway relocation project in 1973 forced the store to move a few blocks to 361 Atwells Avenue and this is where we reside today. The image below is the old location on Atwells shortly before it was demolished.
On Friday and Saturday afternoons, Gasbarro's would stack 100 cases of Narragansett Beer on the street and cars would drive up to the curb, purchase and drive off.
During Prohibition, Gasbarro's was a malt and hop merchant as well as a merchant of wine making equipment. In 1933, when Prohibition was repealed, Antonio had several sons involved in the business. My grandfather, Ugo (pictured above), took on more responsibility at the store, as Antonio grew ill. Ugo's siblings were also a vital part of the operation; hence, the name Gasbarro Bros. was incorporated in 1936. The business had a small store-front for retail and by now, a separate warehouse for the wholesale division. This division was equally owned by the nine brothers and sisters.
Gasbarro's really started to evolve in the 1950s and 1960s with the expansion of the imported wine selection. With an import license in hand, my grandfather Ugo started traveling to Europe regularly to search for wines to build the selection. In the late 1960s, my father Lombard (pictured on the right with Uncle Frank, above) joined him, and they decided to concentrate their efforts in Italy. They may have been ahead of their time, but because of their perserverance, Gasbarro's today is recognized as one of the top retailers of Italian wine in the country. After my grandfather passed away in 1981, my father carried on the store's legacy and reputation, and with my grandfather's siblings getting on with age, the decision was made to dissolve the wholesale division.
In 1990, at the age of 16, I entered the family business as the fourth generation of the Gasbarro family to do so. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with my father for 12 years. Upon his untimely passing in 2002, my father had amassed what some would say is the finest collection of Italian wines and spirits in the United States. However, as one of my first roles, I was sent to California to learn about the new wineries that were opening and the fine wines being made here on American soil. Today, to complement our Italian wine selection of over 900 labels, we feature more than 450 Californian wines. Together, they make up over 80% of our sales.
My hopes and aspirations for the future are to grow this business just as the previous three generations did. Most Importantly, I will maintain the same level of service and knowledge that has kept customers coming back to us year after year. I look forward to meeting you and I hope you enjoy our selection.
Mark Ugo Gasbarro Owner